Heterogeneous associations of polyomaviruses and herpesviruses with allergy-related phenotypes in childhood

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2021 Aug;127(2):191-199.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2021.04.019. Epub 2021 Apr 23.


Background: Evidence suggests a complex interplay between infections and allergic diseases.

Objective: To explore the association of 14 common viruses with eczema, asthma, and rhinoconjunctivitis in childhood.

Methods: We used cross-sectional (n = 686) and prospective (n = 440) data from children participating in the Rhea birth cohort. Immunoglobulin G to polyomaviruses (BK polyomavirus, JC polyomavirus, KI polyomavirus [KIPyV], WU polyomavirus [WUPyV], human polyomavirus 6, human polyomavirus 7, Trichodysplasia spinulosa polyomavirus, Merkel cell polyomavirus, human polyomavirus 9, and human polyomavirus 10) and herpesviruses (Epstein-Barr virus, Cytomegalovirus, Herpes simplex virus-1, Herpes simplex virus-2) were measured at age 4 years by fluorescent bead-based multiplex serology. Definitions of eczema, asthma, and rhinoconjunctivitis at ages 4 and 6 years were based on questionnaires. Mediation of the associations by immune biomarkers was tested.

Results: Less likely to have eczema at age 4 years were KIPyV-seropositive (odds ratio [OR], 0.47; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.27-0.82) and human polyomavirus 6 (OR, 0.44; 95% CI, 0.26-0.73) compared with their seronegative counterparts. Seropositivity to Epstein-Barr virus was negatively associated with eczema at age 4 years (OR, 0.39; 95% CI, 0.22-0.67) and 6 years (OR, 0.50; 95% CI, 0.25-0.99). Children with a higher burden of herpesviruses or of skin polyomaviruses had the lowest odds of eczema at age 4 years. Higher odds for asthma at age 4 years were found for WUPyV-seropositive children (OR, 3.98; 95% CI, 1.38-11.51), and for children seropositive to both respiratory polyomaviruses (KIPyV and WUPyV) (OR, 7.35; 95% CI, 1.66-32.59) compared with children seronegative to both. No associations were observed for rhinoconjunctivitis. There was no evidence of mediation by immune biomarkers.

Conclusion: A heterogeneous pattern of infections and allergic diseases was observed with common infections associated with a decreased eczema risk and an increased asthma risk in children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eczema / epidemiology*
  • Eczema / immunology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / immunology
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology
  • Humans
  • Polyomavirus / immunology
  • Polyomavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Polyomavirus Infections / immunology