Maternal immune correlates of protection from human cytomegalovirus transmission to the fetus after primary infection in pregnancy

Daniele Lilleri, Giuseppe Gerna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Immune control of primary human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection appears to depend on the interaction of humoral and T-cell responses. In this review, we have separately explored the 2 arms of the immune response to primary HCMV infection in HCMV-seronegative pregnant women transmitting (T) or not transmitting (NT) the infection to the fetus, with the objective of correlating the immune risk factors associated with vertical HCMV transmission. As for the humoral response, the following findings were documented: (i) in competitive binding assays, antibody titers to different antigenic sites of the gH pentamer complex were significantly lower in T compared with NT women; (ii) in addition, the number of neutralization sites recognized by T was significantly lower compared with NT women; (iii) the plaque formation inhibition assay showed a faster kinetics and a higher titer in NT women. As for T-cell immunity, the delayed expression of 3 immunological parameters (lymphoproliferative response, CD45RA reexpression in both CD4+ and CD8+ HCMV-specific T cells, and interleukin-2 production by HCMV-specific CD4+ T cells) were significantly associated with vertical transmission. This overview provides important information at the population level, which may help to inform the evaluation of interventions such as vaccination or treatments designed to interrupt intrauterine transmission of HCMV during primary infection. However, although we are waiting for an HCMV vaccination to become available, we emphasize that none of these parameters can be prognostically used on an individual basis because of the great variation in values among women.

Original languageEnglish
JournalReviews in Medical Virology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2016


  • Congenital infection
  • Human cytomegalovirus
  • Immune protection
  • Pregnancy
  • Primary infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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