Interestingly, the genes involved in innate immune response — the body’s first line of defense against pathogens — and interferon signaling, were also associated with PTSD. Interferons are proteins released in response to pathogens in our bodies, and in this study, were also shown to partake in the pathology PTSD.
That means that something may be stimulating this interferon response before PTSD ever develops. Researchers say a number of factors could be to blame, ranging from increased anticipatory stress before deployment to a more complex scenario where an individual may have a higher viral load. That’s a question for future studies.
The most powerful implications of this work could be that doctors could potentially ID people who may be susceptible to PTSD before they are ever exposed to a traumatic event, says Nievergelt. But while these findings are novel, research still has a long way to go.