Maha Almanan

Maha Almanan, first author and graduate student in the Division of Immunobiology

Findings reported Aug. 10, 2017, in PLOS Pathogens suggest that whether cytomegalovirus (CMV) goes dormant or reactivates depends on where it lodges in the body.  

Immune system T-cells appear to encourage CMV’s latency in the spleen, but not in the salivary gland, reports Maha Almanan, first author and graduate student in the Division of Immunobiology.

CMV infects more than half of adults by age 40. Usually it causes no symptoms, but it can reactivate in people with weakened immune systems. 

Previous work showed that T-cells caused this reactivation; researchers tested this by infecting mice with CMV. Eight months after infection, they found latent CMV in the spleen, salivary gland, lung, and pancreas. 

Then the team decreased levels of regulatory T-cells. In the spleen, depleting T-cells reduced the virus and boosted immune cell function; the opposite occurred in the salivary gland.

Findings are being investigated in immune-suppressed patients, and may eventually lead to developing improved treatments.