Quantification of dengue virus specific T cell responses and correlation with viral load and clinical disease severity in acute dengue infection

by Dulharie T. Wijeratne, Samitha Fernando, Laksiri Gomes, Chandima Jeewandara, Anushka Ginneliya, Supun Samarasekara, Ananda Wijewickrama, Clare S. Hardman, Graham S. Ogg, Gathsaurie Neelika Malavige

Background

In order to understand the role of dengue virus (DENV) specific T cell responses that associate with protection, we studied their frequency and phenotype in relation to clinical disease severity and resolution of viraemia in a large cohort of patients with varying severity of acute dengue infection.

Methodology/Principal findings

Using ex vivo IFNγ ELISpot assays we determined the frequency of dengue viral peptide (DENV)-NS3, NS1 and NS5 responsive T cells in 74 adult patients with acute dengue infection and examined the association of responsive T cell frequency with the extent of viraemia and clinical disease severity. We found that total DENV-specific and DENV-NS3-specific T cell responses, were higher in patients with dengue fever (DF), when compared to those with dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF). In addition, those with DF had significantly higher (p = 0.02) DENV-specific T cell responses on day 4 of infection compared to those who subsequently developed DHF. DENV peptide specific T cell responses inversely correlated with the degree of viraemia, which was most significant for DENV-NS3 specific T cell responses (Spearman’s r = -0.47, p = 0.0003). The frequency of T cell responses to NS1, NS5 and pooled DENV peptides, correlated with the degree of thrombocytopenia but had no association with levels of liver transaminases. In contrast, total DENV-IgG inversely correlated with the degree of thrombocytopenia and levels of liver transaminases.

Conclusions/Significance

Early appearance of DENV-specific T cell IFNγ responses before the onset of plasma leakage, appears to associate with milder clinical disease and resolution of viraemia, suggesting a protective role in acute dengue infection.

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