'From immunosenescence to immune modulation': a re-appraisal of the role of cytomegalovirus as major regulator of human immune function

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


External organisations

  • Birmingham Health Partners


In the year 2000, cytomegalovirus was identified as a risk factor for mortality in a seminal study of octogenarian residents in Sweden. This finding triggered a wave of additional epidemiological investigations, some of which supported this association whilst others observed no such effect. In addition, this increased risk of death in CMV-seropositive people was correlated with observed changes within the T-cell repertoire such that accelerated 'immunosenescence' became a de facto explanation, without strong evidence to this effect. Recent years have seen a re-appraisal of these findings. Interestingly, many studies show that cytomegalovirus acts to improve immune function, most clearly in younger donors. In addition, the excess mortality in older people that is observed in CMV-seropositive cohorts appears to be related primarily to an excess of vascular disease rather than impairment of immune function. CMV is an important member of the natural 'virome' of Homo sapiens and has an important, and generally positive, modulatory influence on human immune function throughout most of life. However, within certain populations, this influence can become negative and age, co-morbidity and environment all act as determinants of this effect. As such, it is important that new interventions are developed that can mitigate the damaging influence of CMV on human health in populations at risk.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-280
Number of pages10
JournalMedical Microbiology and Immunology
Issue number3-4
Early online date3 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • Arteriosclerosis, Cytomegalovirus, Immunosenescence, Vascular surveillance

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