Human cytomegalovirus induces systemic immune activation characterized by a type 1 cytokine signature

J Infect Dis. 2010 Sep 1;202(5):690-9. doi: 10.1086/655472.


Mechanisms underlying the onset and perpetuation of chronic immune activation in individuals without overt infectious or autoimmune diseases are unclear. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a persistent virus that induces a permanent increase of highly differentiated, interferon-gamma-secreting effector T cells. We hypothesized that, because of this increase, CMV also induces a systemic inflammatory response. We measured acute phase proteins, cytokines, and chemokines in serum samples from renal transplant recipients who developed a primary CMV infection and healthy CMV serum-positive or -negative individuals. Primary CMV infection induced a clear proinflammatory response that was maintained during latency. This response was characterized by increased levels of acute phase proteins, such as serum amyloid-A and C-reactive protein, and type 1 cytokines, such as interleukin-18, interferon-inducible protein-10, and interferon-gamma. This continuous activation of the immune system may play a role in the pathogenesis of chronic allograft rejection and potentially contribute to the acceleration of chronic diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Cytomegalovirus / immunology*
  • Cytomegalovirus / physiology
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / immunology*
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / virology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Interleukin-18 / metabolism
  • Kidney Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Th1 Cells / immunology*
  • Th1 Cells / metabolism
  • Virus Latency


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-18
  • Interferon-gamma
  • C-Reactive Protein