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Herpesvirus reactivation and socioeconomic position: a community-based study


Background Elevated antibodies to latent herpesviruses have been demonstrated to be a reliable marker of diminished cellular immunity and recently have been associated with low socioeconomic position (SEP) in older adults. Extending these observations in a community-based study over a wide age range would provide an important new direction for investigating mechanisms underlying poor health outcomes in individuals with low SEP.

Methods Anti-herpes simplex virus (HSV)-1 and anti-Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antibodies were measured in blood samples from 1457 adults aged 25–90. Regression models were then used to determine the relationships between viral reactivation, age, gender, ethnicity and SEP.

Results Individuals were significantly more likely to have higher antiviral antibodies (ie, reactivation) to both EBV and HSV-1 than one virus alone. Individuals in the lowest age group had less reactivation, whereas greater reactivation was observed in women and those with the least education. Compared to white non-Hispanics, Hispanics and black non-Hispanics experienced more viral reactivation. These relationships remained strong after controlling for sociodemographic factors as well as smoking status, body mass index and physical activity.

Conclusions These results demonstrate that herpesvirus reactivation is associated with variables such as age, gender, ethnicity and education, and may play a role in poorer health outcomes in both younger and older adults.

  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • herpesvirus
  • herpes simplex virus
  • immunology
  • microbiology
  • POP health indicator, socioeconomic position

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