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Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2010 Jul;17(7):1086-93. doi: 10.1128/CVI.00530-09. Epub 2010 May 19.

Interacting roles of immune mechanisms and viral load in the pathogenesis of crimean-congo hemorrhagic fever.

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  • 1Institute of Microbiology and Immunology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ljubljana, Zaloska 4, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia.


Until now, the pathogenesis of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) has not been well described. However, it has been hypothesized that it could be a result of the direct injury of virus-infected tissues in combination with the indirect effects of host immune responses, including cytokines. To shed more light on the role of viral load and cytokines, differential influences of CCHF virus (CCHFV) RNA load, antibody response, and cytokine production on severity and outcome of the disease were studied in sera of 46 patients with confirmed acute CCHF from Kosovo. In this study, viral load proved to be strongly related to the severity and outcome of the disease, with higher viral loads detected in patients with fatal outcomes than in surviving patients. Also, patients with fatal outcome had on average a weaker antibody response, if one was present at all. High levels of interleukin-10 (IL-10), gamma interferon (IFN-gamma), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) were associated with poor outcome, since detected concentrations were highest in patients with fatal outcome and lowest in patients with moderate disease course. Additionally, a positive linear dependence between viral load and these cytokines was observed. Interestingly, reduced levels of IL-12 were detected in all CCHF patients. Our study favors the hypothesis that CCHF could be a result of a delayed and downregulated immune response caused by IL-10, which leads to an increased replication and spread of CCHFV throughout the body. This consequently triggers increased production of IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha, cytokines mediating vascular dysfunction, disseminated intravascular coagulation, organ failure, and shock.

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