Background: Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) induce effector memory T-cell expansions, which are variable and potentially depend on the age at primary exposure and coinfections. We evaluated the T-cell compartment and herpesvirus infections in 6-year-old children.
Methods: T-cell subsets and immunoglobulin G seropositivity for CMV, EBV, herpes-simplex virus 1, and varicella-zoster virus were studied in 1079 6-year-old children. A random subgroup of 225 children was evaluated for CMV and EBV seropositivity before 2 years of age and for vaccination responses against measles and tetanus.
Results: CMV and EBV infections were associated with significant expansions of CD27(-) and CD27(+) effector memory T cells, respectively. These expansions were enhanced in CMV-EBV-coinfected children and were independent of varicella-zoster virus or herpes-simplex virus 1 coinfection. Naive and central memory T-cell numbers were not affected, nor were anti-tetanus and anti-measles immunoglobulin G levels. Children infected before 2 years of age showed smaller effector memory T-cell expansions than those infected between 2 and 6 years of age.
Conclusions: CMV- and EBV-related T-cell expansions do not impair naive T-cell numbers or maintenance of protective responses against nonrelated pathogens. Duration of infection was not directly related to larger expansions of effector memory T cells in children, suggesting that other mechanisms affect these expansions at later age.
Keywords: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV); T-cell compartment; childhood adaptive immune system; cytomegalovirus (CMV); effector memory T-cell expansions; herpes-simplex virus 1 (HSV-1); persistent herpesvirus infection; varicella-zoster virus (VZV).
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