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J Immunol. 2004 Mar 1;172(5):3297-304.

Role of specific CD8+ T cells in the severity of a fulminant zoonotic viral hemorrhagic fever, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.

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Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research, and Department of Pediatrics and Program in Molecular Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01655, USA.


We report on the role of specific CD8(+) T cells in the pathogenesis of a highly lethal human viral disease, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). HPS is a zoonotic disease caused by transmission of Sin Nombre virus (SNV) from chronically infected deer mice. In humans, this fulminant infection is characterized by lung capillary leakage, respiratory failure, and cardiogenic shock. Individuals with HLA-B*3501 have an increased risk of developing severe HPS, suggesting that CD8(+) T cell responses to SNV contribute to pathogenesis. We identified three CD8(+) T cell epitopes in SNV presented by HLA-B*3501 and quantitated circulating SNV-specific CD8(+) T cells in 11 acute HPS patients using HLA/peptide tetramers. We found significantly higher frequencies of SNV-specific T cells in patients with severe HPS requiring mechanical ventilation (up to 44.2% of CD8(+) T cells) than in moderately ill HPS patients hospitalized but not requiring mechanical ventilation (up to 9.8% of CD8(+) T cells). These results imply that virus-specific CD8(+) T cells contribute to HPS disease outcome. Intense CD8(+) T cell responses to SNV may be induced by the encounter of the unnatural human host to this zoonotic virus without coevolution. This may also be the immunopathologic basis of other life-threatening human virus infections.

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