"Immune senescence" is a descriptive term for the deleterious age-associated changes to immunity observed in all mammals studied so far. While all components of innate and adaptive immunity are changed with age, the clinical impact of these changes is not clear, and mechanisms of and markers for immunosenescence are controversial. In humans, several cross-sectional studies have demonstrated that the major accepted age-associated changes to parameters used to assess adaptive immune status are markedly influenced by infection with cytomegalovirus (CMV). In the very limited longitudinal studies thus far carried out, a cluster of immune parameters associating with 2-, 4- and 6-year survival of the very elderly has been identified and termed the "immune risk profile" (IRP). This cluster includes seropositivity for CMV and is characterised by accumulations of clonal expansions of late-differentiated CD8+ T cells, many of which are specific for CMV antigens. Here we review the impact of CMV on "immune senescence" in humans.
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