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Age related changes in T cell mediated immune response and effector memory to Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in healthy subjects

Author(s): Cusi Maria | Martorelli Barbara | Di Genova Giuseppa | Terrosi Chiara | Campoccia Giuseppe | Correale Pierpaolo

Journal: Immunity & Ageing
ISSN 1742-4933

Volume: 7;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 14;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Abstract Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the major pathogen causing respiratory disease in young infants and it is an important cause of serious illness in the elderly since the infection provides limited immune protection against reinfection. In order to explain this phenomenon, we investigated whether healthy adults of different age (20-40; 41-60 and > 60 years), have differences in central and effector memory, RSV-specific CD8+ T cell memory immune response and regulatory T cell expression status. In the peripheral blood of these donors, we were unable to detect any age related difference in term of central (CD45RA-CCR7+) and effector (CD45RA-CCR7-) memory T cell frequency. On the contrary, we found a significant increase in immunosuppressive regulatory (CD4+25+FoxP3+) T cells (Treg) in the elderly. An immunocytofluorimetric RSV pentamer analysis performed on these donors' peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), in vitro sensitized against RSV antigen, revealed a marked decline in long-lasting RSV specific CD8+ memory T cell precursors expressing interleukin 7 receptor α (IL-7Rα), in the elderly. This effect was paralleled by a progressive switch from a Th1 (IFN-γ and TNF-α) to a Th2 (IL-10) functional phenotype. On the contrary, an increase in Treg was observed with aging. The finding of Treg over-expression status, a prominent Th2 response and an inefficient RSV-specific effector memory CD8+ T cell expansion in older donors could explain the poor protection against RSV reinfection and the increased risk to develop an RSV-related severe illness in this population. Our finding also lays the basis for new therapeutic perspectives that could limit or prevent severe RSV infection in elderly.
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