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BK polyomavirus-specific cellular immune responses are age-dependent and strongly correlate with phases of virus replication

, : BK polyomavirus-specific cellular immune responses are age-dependent and strongly correlate with phases of virus replication. American Journal of Transplantation 14(6): 1334-1345

BK polyomavirus (BKPyV) infection is widespread and typically asymptomatic during childhood, but may cause nephropathy in kidney transplant recipients. However, there is only limited knowledge on BKPyV-specific immunity in children and adults, and its role in BKPyV-replication and disease posttransplant. We therefore characterized BKPyV-specific immunity from 122 immunocompetent individuals (1-84 years), 38 adult kidney recipients with (n = 14) and without BKPyV-associated complications (n = 24), and 25 hemodialysis (HD) patients. Blood samples were stimulated with overlapping peptides of BKPyV large-T antigen and VP1 followed by flow-cytometric analysis of activated CD4 T cells expressing interferon-γ, IL-2 and tumor necrosis factor-α. Antibody-levels were determined using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Both BKPyV-IgG levels and BKPyV-specific CD4 T cell frequencies were age-dependent (p = 0.0059) with maximum levels between 20 and 30 years (0.042%, interquartile range 0.05%). Transplant recipients showed a significantly higher BKPyV-specific T cell prevalence (57.9%) compared to age-matched controls (21.7%) or HD patients (28%, p = 0.017). Clinically relevant BKPyV-replication was associated with elevated frequencies of BKPyV-specific T cells (p = 0.0002), but decreased percentage of cells expressing multiple cytokines (p = 0.009). In conclusion, BKPyV-specific cellular immunity reflects phases of active BKPyV-replication either after primary infection in childhood or during reactivation after transplantation. Combined analysis of BKPyV-specific T cell functionality and viral loads may improve individual risk assessment.


PMID: 24726000

DOI: 10.1111/ajt.12689

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