Persistent herpesvirus infections and telomere attrition over 3 years in the Whitehall II cohort

Jennifer Beam Dowd, Jos A. Bosch, Andrew Steptoe, Bamini Jayabalasingham, Jue Lin, Robert Yolken, Allison Aiello

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38 Citations (Scopus)
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The determinants of telomere attrition, a potential marker of cellular aging, are not well understood. Persistent herpesvirus infections including cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection may be particularly important for telomere dynamics via mechanisms such as inflammation, oxidative stress, and their impact on peripheral blood lymphocyte composition. This study examined the association of four human herpesviruses (CMV, HSV-1, HHV-6, and EBV) with change in leucocyte telomere length (LTL) over three years in 400 healthy individuals (ages 53-76) from the Whitehall II cohort. CMV, HSV-1, and HHV-6 infection were independently associated with greater 3-year LTL attrition, with no association found for EBV. Their magnitudes were large, e.g. the equivalent of almost 12 years of chronological age for those CMV seropositive. Seropositivity to a higher number of herpesviruses was additively associated with greater LTL attrition (3 herpesviruses vs. none β=-0.07, p-value= 0.02, 4 infections vs none β=-0.14, p-value< 0.001). Higher IgG antibody levels among those seropositive to CMV were also associated with shorter LTL at follow-up. These associations were robust to adjustment for age, sex, employment grade, BMI, and smoking status. These results suggest that exposure to infectious agents should be an important consideration in future studies of telomere dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-572
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number5
Early online date22 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


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