Background Varicella zoster virus (VZV)-specific memory T cells are significantly lower in transplant recipients than in controls. In addition, VZV-specific immunoglobulin G titers are significantly lower after than before transplantation. Data on the incidence and timing of herpes zoster (HZ) after lung transplantation are limited. This study had two aims: first, we investigated the incidence and severity of HZ after lung transplantation; second, we determined the systemic VZV-specific T-cell and B-cell memory responses before and after HZ. Methods The records of 119 patients who underwent transplantation were analyzed for post-transplant HZ. The VZV-specific B-cell and T-cell memory responses of 5 patients before and after HZ were compared with 5 patients without HZ by enzyme-linked immunospot assay and flow cytometry, respectively. Results HZ was clinically diagnosed and confirmed by polymerase chain reaction on blister fluids and/or plasma in 17 transplant recipients. Uncomplicated cutaneous HZ was present in 12 patients, and 5 patients had disseminated HZ, of whom 1 died. The incidence of HZ after transplantation (38.2 cases/1,000 patient-years) was significantly higher than the age-matched healthy population (7–8 cases/1,000 patient-years). The frequency of VZV-specific immunoglobulin G–producing B cells (p = 0.06) and the percentage of VZV-specific CD4 and CD8 memory T cells increased after HZ to higher frequencies than in patients without HZ (p = 0.03). This was mainly attributed to VZV-reactive effector memory CD4 T cells (p = 0.02) and central memory (p = 0.02) and effector memory (p = 0.03) CD8 T cells. Conclusions Lung transplant recipients are highly prone to develop HZ with severe complications. Despite deep immunosuppression, HZ boosted their systemic VZV-specific B-cell and T-cell memory responses.

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The Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
Department of Internal Medicine

van Besouw, N., van Hal, P., Zuijderwijk, J., de Kuiper, R., Hoek, R., van Weezel, J.J. (Jan J.), … Weimar, W. (2016). Herpes zoster after lung transplantation boosts varicella zoster virus–specific adaptive immune responses. The Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation, 35(12), 1435–1442. doi:10.1016/j.healun.2016.04.009