Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Microbiology & Immunology

First Advisor

Marcia Winter, PhD


Inflammation is a common pathophysiological pathway for a number of chronic diseases and is influenced by exposure to stress. Although there are racial disparities in health outcomes, relatively little is known about factors that may influence the inflammatory response in Black American individuals. This study examined whether racial discrimination and other forms of stress are associated with the balance of pro- and anti- inflammatory cytokines in Black American adults. Data from 22 participants were drawn from a larger study of Black American children (ages 5-12) and their primary caregivers drawn from low income neighborhoods in Richmond, Virginia. Caregivers reported demographics, frequency of experiences of discrimination, and stressful life events; and gave blood samples via venipuncture. Inflammation was assessed using a multiplex assay to capture both pro- and anti- inflammatory cytokines.

Results showed that there was no statistically significant correlation between the balance of pro- and anti- inflammatory cytokines and social adversity (racial discrimination and stressful life events together). However, there was a significant, positive correlation between the balance of pro- and anti- inflammatory cytokines and racial discrimination over and above the effects of stressful life events. Higher exposure to racial discrimination was associated with more pro- and anti- inflammatory cytokines being expressed therefore leading to more inflammation and potentially contributing to health disparities in Black Americans.


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