Role of persistent CMV infection in configuring T cell immunity in the elderly

Immun Ageing. 2007 Mar 21;4:2. doi: 10.1186/1742-4933-4-2.


Ageing is associated with declines in many physiological parameters, including multiple immune system functions. The rate of acceleration of the frequency of death due to cardiovascular disease or cancer seems to increase with age from middle age up to around 80 years, plateauing thereafter. Mortality due to infectious disease, however, does not plateau, but continues to accelerate indefinitely. The elderly commonly possess oligoclonal expansions of T cells, especially of CD8 cells, which, surprisingly, are often associated with cytomegalovirus (CMV) seropositivity. This in turn is associated with many of the same phenotypic and functional alterations to T cell immunity that have been suggested as biomarkers of immune system aging. Thus, the manner in which CMV and the host immune system interact is critical in determining the "age" of specific immunity. We may therefore consider immunosenescence in some respects as an infectious state. This implies that interventions aimed at the pathogen may improve the organ system affected. Hence, CMV-directed anti-virals or vaccination may have beneficial effects on immunity in later life.