Stress, loneliness, and changes in herpesvirus latency

J Behav Med. 1985 Sep;8(3):249-60. doi: 10.1007/BF00870312.


This study used a prospective design to examine the influence of examination stress and loneliness on herpesvirus latency as measured by changes in antibody levels to three herpesviruses, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), Herpes simplex type I (HSV-1), and cytomegalovirus (CMV). Three blood samples were obtained from 49 first-year medical students, with the first sample drawn 1 month before final examinations, the second on the first day of final examinations, and the third during the first week after their return from summer vacation. A median split on the UCLA Loneliness Scale divided subjects into high- and low-scoring loneliness groups. There were significant changes in the antibody titers to all three herpesviruses across the sample points, with the lowest levels found in the third (low stress) sample. High-loneliness subjects had significantly higher EBV antibody titers than low-loneliness subjects. These data suggest that stress-related immunosuppression can significantly modulate herpesvirus latency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis
  • Cytomegalovirus / immunology
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / psychology
  • Female
  • Herpes Simplex / psychology
  • Herpesviridae Infections / immunology
  • Herpesviridae Infections / psychology*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology
  • Humans
  • Loneliness*
  • Male
  • Simplexvirus / immunology
  • Social Isolation*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Virus Activation


  • Antibodies, Viral