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Herpes zoster after lung transplantation boosts varicella zoster virus-specific adaptive immune responses.
van Besouw, Nicole M
van Hal, Peter Th W
Zuijderwijk, Joke M
de Kuiper, Ronella
Hoek, Rogier A S
van Weezel, Jan J
van der Eijk, Annemiek A
Verjans, Georges M G M
Weimar, Willem
The Journal of heart and lung transplantation : the official publication of the International Society for Heart Transplantation 2016 Dec;35: 1435-1442

BACKGROUND: Varicella zoster virus (VZV)-specific memory T cells are significantly lower in transplant recipients than in controls. In addition, VZV-specific immunoglobulin G titers are significantly lower after than before transplantation. Data on the incidence and timing of herpes zoster (HZ) after lung transplantation are limited. This study had two aims: first, we investigated the incidence and severity of HZ after lung transplantation; second, we determined the systemic VZV-specific T-cell and B-cell memory responses before and after HZ.

METHODS: The records of 119 patients who underwent transplantation were analyzed for post-transplant HZ. The VZV-specific B-cell and T-cell memory responses of 5 patients before and after HZ were compared with 5 patients without HZ by enzyme-linked immunospot assay and flow cytometry, respectively.

RESULTS: HZ was clinically diagnosed and confirmed by polymerase chain reaction on blister fluids and/or plasma in 17 transplant recipients. Uncomplicated cutaneous HZ was present in 12 patients, and 5 patients had disseminated HZ, of whom 1 died. The incidence of HZ after transplantation (38.2 cases/1,000 patient-years) was significantly higher than the age-matched healthy population (7-8 cases/1,000 patient-years). The frequency of VZV-specific immunoglobulin G-producing B cells (p = 0.06) and the percentage of VZV-specific CD4 and CD8 memory T cells increased after HZ to higher frequencies than in patients without HZ (p = 0.03). This was mainly attributed to VZV-reactive effector memory CD4 T cells (p = 0.02) and central memory (p = 0.02) and effector memory (p = 0.03) CD8 T cells.

CONCLUSIONS: Lung transplant recipients are highly prone to develop HZ with severe complications. Despite deep immunosuppression, HZ boosted their systemic VZV-specific B-cell and T-cell memory responses.

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