The EBV is known to persist in memory B cells, but it remains unclear how this affects cell numbers and humoral immunity. We here studied EBV persistence in memory B cell subsets and consequences on B cell memory in young children. EBV genome loads were quantified in 6 memory B cell subsets in EBV+ adults. The effects of EBV infection on memory B cell numbers and vaccination responses were studied longitudinally in children within the Generation R population cohort between 14 mo and 6 yr of age. EBV genomes were more numerous in CD27+IgG+, CD27+IgA+, and CD27-IgA+ memory B cells than in IgM-only, natural effector, and CD27-IgG+ B cells. The blood counts of IgM-only, CD27+IgA+, CD27-IgG+, and CD27+IgG+ memory B cells were significantly lower in EBV+ children than in uninfected controls at 14 mo of age-the age when these cells peak in numbers. At 6 yr, all of these memory B cell counts had normalized, as had plasma IgG levels to previous primary measles and booster tetanus vaccinations. In conclusion, EBV persists predominantly in Ig class-switched memory B cells, even when derived from T cell-independent responses (CD27-IgA+), and EBV infection results in a transient depletion of these cells in young children.
Keywords: Epstein-Barr virus; herpes virus; humoral immunity; pediatric infection.
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