Severe Symptomatic Primary Human Cytomegalovirus Infection despite Effective Innate and Adaptive Immune Responses

Abstract : Primary human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection usually goes unnoticed, causing mild or no symptoms in immunocompetent individuals. However, some rare severe clinical cases have been reported without investigation of host immune responses or viral virulence. In the present study, we investigate for the first time phenotypic and functional features, together with gene expression profiles in immunocompetent adults experiencing a severe primary HCMV infection. Twenty primary HCMV-infected patients (PHIP) were enrolled, as well as 26 HCMV-seronegative and 39 HCMV-seropositive healthy controls. PHIP had extensive lymphocytosis marked by massive expansion of natural killer (NK) and T cell compartments. Interestingly, PHIP mounted efficient innate and adaptive immune responses with a deep HCMV imprint, revealed mainly by the expansion of NKG2C+ NK cells, CD16+ Vδ2(-) γδ T cells, and conventional HCMV-specific CD8+ T cells. The main effector lymphocytes were activated and displayed an early immune phenotype that developed toward a more mature differentiated status. We suggest that both massive lymphocytosis and excessive lymphocyte activation could contribute to massive cytokine production, known to mediate tissue damage observed in PHIP. Taken together, these findings bring new insights into the comprehensive understanding of immune mechanisms involved during primary HCMV infection in immunocompetent individuals.IMPORTANCE HCMV-specific immune responses have been extensively documented in immunocompromised patients and during in utero acquisition. While it usually goes unnoticed, some rare severe clinical cases of primary HCMV infection have been reported in immunocompetent patients. However, host immune responses or HCMV virulence in these patients has not so far been investigated. In the present study, we show massive expansion of NK and T cell compartments during the symptomatic stage of acute HCMV infection. The patients mounted efficient innate and adaptive immune responses with a deep HCMV imprint. The massive lymphocytosis could be the result of nonadapted or uncontrolled immune responses limiting the effectiveness of the specific responses mounted. Both massive lymphocytosis and excessive lymphocyte activation could contribute to massive cytokine production, known to mediate tissue damage. Furthermore, we cannot exclude a delayed immune response caused by immune escape established by HCMV strains.
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Raphaëlle Riou, Céline Bressollette-Bodin, David Boutoille, Katia Gagne, Audrey Rodallec, et al.. Severe Symptomatic Primary Human Cytomegalovirus Infection despite Effective Innate and Adaptive Immune Responses. Journal of Virology, American Society for Microbiology, 2017, 91 (5), pp.e02245-16. ⟨10.1128/JVI.02245-16⟩. ⟨inserm-01805573⟩

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