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Research Letter
March 6, 2019

Association of Early-Life Stress With Cytomegalovirus Infection in Adults With Major Depressive Disorder

Author Affiliations
  • 1Laureate Institute for Brain Research, Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • 2The University of Tulsa Department of Biological Sciences, Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • 3Stanley Division of Developmental Neurovirology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 4Department of Surgery, University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine, Tulsa
  • 5Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, California
  • 6Associate Editor, JAMA Psychiatry
JAMA Psychiatry. 2019;76(5):545-547. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.4543

Early-life stress is a well-established risk factor in the development of psychiatric disorders. Although the biological processes behind this association are unclear, there is evidence to suggest that early-life stress may lead to immune dysregulation.1 One possibility is that early-life stress may impair adaptive immunity and, therefore, increase vulnerability to initial infection and subsequent reactivation of herpesviruses. Herpesviruses are potential immune-modifying agents that persist as latent infections and can reactivate during periods of stress. Initially believed to be benign except in cases of immunosuppression, cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection has been found to be associated with a range of negative outcomes, including depression, immunosenescence, neurodegenerative disorders, and reduced lifespan.2