Immune Correlates of Protection Against Human Cytomegalovirus Acquisition, Replication, and Disease

Cody S. Nelson, Ilona Baraniak, Daniele Lilleri, Matthew B. Reeves, Paul D. Griffiths, Sallie R. Permar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is the most common infectious cause of infant birth defects and an etiology of significant morbidity and mortality in solid organ and hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients. There is tremendous interest in developing a vaccine or immunotherapeutic to reduce the burden of HCMV-associated disease, yet after nearly a half-century of research and development in this field we remain without such an intervention. Defining immune correlates of protection is a process that enables targeted vaccine/immunotherapeutic discovery and informed evaluation of clinical performance. Outcomes in the HCMV field have previously been measured against a variety of clinical end points, including virus acquisition, systemic replication, and progression to disease. Herein we review immune correlates of protection against each of these end points in turn, showing that control of HCMV likely depends on a combination of innate immune factors, antibodies, and T-cell responses. Furthermore, protective immune responses are heterogeneous, with no single immune parameter predicting protection against all clinical outcomes and stages of HCMV infection. A detailed understanding of protective immune responses for a given clinical end point will inform immunogen selection and guide preclinical and clinical evaluation of vaccines or immunotherapeutics to prevent HCMV-mediated congenital and transplant disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S45-S59
JournalThe Journal of infectious diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 5 2020


  • Cytomegalovirus
  • immune correlate
  • vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Infectious Diseases

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