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Telomere Length Linked to Risk of Rhinovirus Infection, Illness

Last Updated: February 19, 2013.

Shorter telomere length of CD8CD28− T cells correlates with increased risk of experimentally-induced upper respiratory virus infection and clinical illness among healthy adults, according to a study published in the Feb. 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

TUESDAY, Feb. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Shorter telomere length of CD8CD28− T cells correlates with increased risk of experimentally-induced upper respiratory virus infection and clinical illness among healthy adults, according to a study published in the Feb. 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Sheldon Cohen, Ph.D., from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, and colleagues examined the correlation between shorter telomeres in leukocytes and resistance to upper respiratory infection and clinical illness in a cohort of 152 healthy 18- to 55-year-old residents of Pittsburg. Telomere length was assessed in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and T cell subsets. Participants were then quarantined, given nasal drops containing a common cold rhinovirus, and monitored for five days.

The researchers found that the rate of infection was 69 percent and the rate of clinical illness was 22 percent. The odds of infection were increased with shorter telomeres, independent of prechallenge virus-specific antibody, demographics, contraceptive use, season, or body mass index (odds ratios per one-standard deviation decrease in telomere length: PBMC, 1.71; CD4, 1.76; CD8CD28+, 1.93; CD8CD28−, 2.02). For CD8CD28− T cells, shorter telomere length correlated with an increased risk of clinical illness (odds ratio, 1.69). The CD8CD28− telomere length and infection correlation increased with age.

"In this study of healthy young and midlife adults, shorter CD8CD28− cell telomere length was associated with upper respiratory tract infection and clinical illness following experimental exposure to rhinovirus," the authors write. "Because these data are preliminary, their clinical implications are unknown."

One author disclosed financial ties to Telomere Health, a telomere measurement company; one author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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