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J Exp Med. 2002 Sep 2;196(5):579-88.

Long-lived memory T lymphocyte responses after hantavirus infection.

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Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01655, USA.


Puumala virus (PUUV) is a hantavirus that causes hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS), which is an important public health problem in large parts of Europe. We examined the memory cytolytic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses in 13 Finnish individuals who had HFRS between 1984 and 1995. In seven of these donors, we detected virus-specific CTL responses against the PUUV nucleocapsid (N) protein after in vitro stimulation with PUUV. Six novel CD8(+) CTL epitopes were defined on the N protein and were found to be restricted by various HLA alleles including A2, A28, B7, and B8. This is the first demonstration of PUUV-specific CTL responses in humans, and the first identification of CTL epitopes on PUUV. In addition, this study provides one of the few characterizations of a human antiviral memory T cell response, without the complicating issues of virus persistence or reinfection. Interferon (IFN)-gamma ELISPOT analysis showed that memory CTL specific for these epitopes were present at high frequency in PUUV-immune individuals many years after acute infection in the absence of detectable viral RNA. The frequencies of PUUV-specific CTL were comparable to or exceeded those found in other viral systems including influenza, EBV and HIV, in which CTL responses may be boosted by periodic reinfection or virus persistence.

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