Background: Herpes virus infections may have a significant role in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) due to their ability to modulate the host's immune system.
Materials and methods: We examined the seroprevalence of four herpes viruses [Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), human herpes virus (HHV)-6 and -7] in a cohort of European CLL patients (cohort 1, n = 100) in relation to the immunoglobulin variable heavy (IGHV) chain gene use and compared serological results with those obtained from age- and gender-matched healthy adults (n = 100).
Results: CMV-seroprevalence was significantly higher in CLL cohort 1 (79%) than in the control cohort (57%, P = 0.001); the seroprevalence of EBV (89% vs. 94%), HHV-6 (73% vs. 60%), or HHV-7 (35% vs. 35%) was not. In CLL cohort 1, use of IGHV3-30 was more prevalent among CMV-seropositive and of IGHV3-21 among HHV-7-seronegative cases. To investigate the generalizability of these findings, we investigated the herpes virus seroprevalence in a second cohort of age-matched CLL patients from a different geographical area (USA, n = 100, cohort 2). In cohort 2, CMV-seroprevalence was comparable with that of the control cohort (53%). Seroprevalence of EBV, HHV-6 and HHV-7 were 85%, 88% and 73% respectively. In CLL cohort 2, use of IGHV3-30 or IGHV3-21 was not associated with any of the herpes viruses investigated.
Conclusions: CMV-seropositivity is associated with CLL in selected patient cohorts. However, the considerable variation in herpes virus-specific seropositivity between geographically distinct CLL cohorts indicates that seropositivity for any of the four human herpes viruses investigated is not generally associated with CLL.