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Clin Exp Immunol. 1983 Aug;53(2):289-96.

Human polyomavirus in pregnancy. A model for the study of defence mechanisms to virus reactivation.


We have carried out a longitudinal study of human polyomavirus infection in 71 pregnant women and correlated the virological findings with changes in the defence system in the same patients. As reactivation of human polyomaviruses generally occurred late in the second trimester it was possible to distinguish between the immunological changes which preceded the onset of reactivation and those which were secondary to the infection. Evidence of reactivation was detected in 26 women; all had high or rising antibody titres against BK or JC virus, but only five of these developed viruria. A positive correlation was observed between a high monocyte count in early pregnancy and subsequent virus reactivation. The virus excretors had significantly lower neutrophil counts than the women who had no evidence of virus reactivation. In contrast, women with serological evidence of virus activity but no viruria has significantly higher neutrophil counts than the non-activators. They also had stronger lymphocyte responses to PHA than the virus excretors. Virus activators were found to have a significant lymphopenia in the third trimester compared to the non-activators. High antibody levels did not appear to inhibit virus excretion. These findings suggest that monocytosis may predispose to reactivation of human polyomaviruses in pregnancy. On the other hand, ability to contain the virus once it has been activated, was associated with neutrophilia, and relatively vigorous in vitro reactivity of lymphocytes to PHA. Persistent lymphopenia was probably secondary to virus reactivation. The model on which this study is based could be adapted to investigate the causes of reactivation of other viruses. It may also help to identify risk factors in patients who are particularly susceptible to infection with opportunistic viruses.

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