Date: 07 May 2010

VZV T Cell-Mediated Immunity

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Abstract

Primary varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infection (varicella) induces VZV-specific antibody and VZV-specific T cell-mediated immunity. T cell-mediated immunity, which is detected within 1–2 weeks after appearance of rash, and consists of both CD4 and CD8 effector and memory T cells, is essential for recovery from varicella. Administration of a varicella vaccine also generates VZV-specific humoral and cellular immune responses. The memory cell responses that develop during varicella or after vaccination contribute to protection following re-exposure to VZV. These responses are subsequently boosted either by endogenous re-exposure (silent reactivation of latent virus) or exogenous re-exposure (environmental). VZV-specific T cell-mediated immunity is also necessary to maintain latent VZV in a subclinical state in sensory ganglia. When these responses decline, as occurs with aging or iatrogenic immune suppression, reactivation of VZV leads to herpes zoster. Similarly, the magnitude of these responses early after the onset of herpes zoster correlates with the extent of zoster-associated pain. These essential immune responses are boosted by the VZV vaccine developed to prevent herpes zoster.