The EBV is known to persist in memory B cells, but it remains unclear how this affects cell numbers and humoral immunity. We here studied EBV persistence in memory B cell subsets and consequences on B cell memory in young children. EBV genome loads were quantified in 6 memory B cell subsets in EBV+ adults. The effects of EBV infection on memory B cell numbers and vaccination responses were studied longitudinally in children within the Generation R population cohort between 14 mo and 6 yr of age. EBV genomes were more numerous in CD27+ IgG+, CD27+ IgA+, and CD27-IgA+ memory B cells than in IgM-only, natural effector, and CD27-IgG+ B cells. The blood counts of IgM-only, CD27+IgA+, CD27-IgG+, and CD27+IgG+ memory B cells were significantly lower in EBV+ children than in uninfected controls at 14 mo of age—the age when these cells peak in numbers. At 6 yr, all of these memory B cell counts had normalized, as had plasma IgG levels to previous primary measles and booster tetanus vaccinations. In conclusion, EBV persists predominantly in Ig class-switched memory B cells, even when derived from T cell-independent responses (CD27-IgA+), and EBV infection results in a transient depletion of these cells in young children.

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Keywords Epstein-Barr virus, Herpes virus, Humoral immunity, Pediatric infection
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Journal Journal of Leukocyte Biology
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Van Den Heuvel, D, Jansen, M.A.E, Bell, A.I, Rickinson, A.B, Jaddoe, V.W.V, van Dongen, J.J.M, … van Zelm, M.C. (2017). Transient reduction in IgA+ and IgG+ memory B cell numbers in young EBV-seropositive children. Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 101(4), 949–956. doi:10.1189/jlb.5VMAB0616-283R