Healthy young children who acquire CMV have prolonged viral shedding into the urine and saliva, but whether this is attributable to limitations in viral-specific immune responses has not been explored. In this study, we found that otherwise immunocompetent young children after recent primary CMV infection accumulated markedly fewer CMV-specific CD4(+) T cells that produced IFN-gamma than did adults. These differences in CD4(+) T cell function persisted for more than 1 year after viral acquisition, and did not apply to CMV-specific IFN-gamma production by CD8(+) T cells. The IFN-gamma-producing CD4(+) T cells of children or adults that were reactive with CMV Ags were mainly the CCR7(low) cell subset of memory (CD45R0(high)CD45RA(low)) cells. The decreased IFN-gamma response to CMV in children was selective, because their CCR7(low) memory CD4(+) T cells and those of adults produced similar levels of this cytokine after stimulation with staphylococcal enterotoxin B superantigen. CD4(+) T cells from children also had reduced CMV-specific IL-2 and CD154 (CD40 ligand) expression, suggesting an early blockade in the differentiation of viral-specific CD4(+) T cells. Following CMV acquisition, children, but not adults, persistently shed virus in urine, and this was observable for at least 29 mo postinfection. Thus, CD4(+) T cell-mediated immunity to CMV in humans is generated in an age-dependent manner, and may have a substantial role in controlling renal viral replication and urinary shedding.