Early T cell differentiation with well-maintained function across the adult life course in sub-Saharan Africa

David J C Miles, Florence Shumba, Annette Pachnio, Jusnara Begum, Elizabeth L Corbett, Robert S Heyderman, Paul Moss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Immune senescence is a significant contributor to health problems in the developed world and may be accelerated by chronic viral infections. To date, there have been few studies of immune function in healthy older people in sub-Saharan Africa. We assessed T cell and B cell phenotypes and immune responses to CMV, EBV, and influenza virus in Malawians aged 20-69 y. Notably, the proportion of naive (CCR7+CD45RA+) CD4 and CD8 T cells was only 14% of the lymphoid repertoire even in donors aged under 30 y but did not decrease further with age. A small increase in the late differentiated (CD27-CD28-) CD8 T cell subpopulation was observed in older donors but the CD4/CD8 T cell ratio remained stable in all age groups. Interestingly, the regulatory (CD25hiFOXP3hi) T cell subpopulation was small in all age groups, and we observed no age-associated accumulation of cells expressing the senescence- and exhaustion-associated markers CD57 and PD-1. We assessed functional T cell responses to mitogenic and viral antigenic stimulation by the expression of CD154, IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-2, and IL-17 and proliferation. All responses were robust across the life course, although we observed an age-associated shift from IFN-γ to TNF-α in the response to EBV. In summary, we found the naive T cell subpopulation of young adult Malawians was smaller than in their contemporaries in high-income settings but remains stable thereafter and that lymphocyte function is retained across the life course. These observations indicate that studies of the genetic and environmental factors influencing immune function in different environments may provide insights into minimizing immune ageing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1160-1171
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number5
Early online date19 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2019 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.


Dive into the research topics of 'Early T cell differentiation with well-maintained function across the adult life course in sub-Saharan Africa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this