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Specific Immune Response To Epstein-Barr Virus Discovered

A specific immune response was found against Epstein-Barr virus. Image credit: Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock

Medicine has not yet been able to explain why the Epstein-Barr virus causes infectious mononucleosis (IM) in some initially infected people but not in others. But now, a research team led by Elisabeth Puchhammer-Stöckl, head of the Virology Center at MedUni Vienna, has identified a specific immune response to the virus as the cause, and a potential target for vaccine development.The findings were recently published in the journal blood.

T cells normally counter the proliferation of human Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) as part of the antiviral immune response. Through this important mechanism, certain EBV components (peptides) are presented to T cells by specific molecules (HLA-E) present on the surface of EBV-infected cells. This triggers a non-canonical T cell response that leads to the destruction of infected cells. Due to a genetic variation (HLA-E*0103/0103), approximately one-third of the population naturally has more HLA-E molecules on EBV-infected cells.

Recently published studies have shown that the risk of developing IM after first infection with Epstein-Barr virus is largely dependent on this EBV-specific immune responseThe investigation was carried out by a research team led by Elisabeth Puchhammer-Stöckl, head of the Center for Virology at MedUni Vienna, in collaboration with colleagues from the Department of Thoracic Surgery and the Third Department of Medicine at MedUni Vienna and researchers from Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam.

“Our study shows that people with the HLA-E*0103/0103 genetic variant have infectious monocytes than those without change. Our experiments in the laboratory have shown that this genetic variant is associated with a highly pronounced EBV-specific – non-classical – immune response,” explains Hannes Vietzen, first author of the study from the Virology Center of the Medical University of Vienna.

Possibility of prevention and diagnosis

in all Viral infection Epstein-Barr virus is one of the most common viruses affecting humans. The virus causes IM in some children and young adults when first infected; the disease is characterized by nonspecific symptoms such as fever and, in some cases, exhaustion that can last for months. Until now, it was not clear why a first-time EBV infection would cause IM in only a few people, while most would not experience any symptoms.

Not only did the researchers identify an EBV-specific immune response as the cause of the phenomenon—it could also be the intended target for research Precaution. “this immune response Still measurable years after initial EBV infection and often conferring durable protection against Epstein-Barr reinfection, it may be worth focusing our attention on this mechanism with a view to developing new vaccines in the future,” said Dr. Hannes Vietzen said, first.

Another finding of the study may also open up new diagnostic options: “Unfavorable combinations of HLA-E Genetic Variation “Certain EBV peptides also appear to play an important role in the development of EBV-associated lymphoma in transplant recipients,” commented Hannes Vietzen. “Analysis of the EBV strains found in these patients could facilitate the early detection of high-risk patients and treated promptly.”

More information:
Hannes Vietzen et al., HLA-E-restricted immune responses are critical for controlling Epstein-Barr virus infection and preventing PTLD, blood (2022). DOI: 10.1182/blood.2022017650

Journal information:

Provided by the
Vienna Medical University

Discovery of a specific immune response against Epstein-Barr virus (2023, January 19)
Retrieved January 19, 2023

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