Shorter telomere length linked with increased risk of common cold

Feb 22nd – Individuals with shorter leukocyte telomere length demonstrate less resistance to experimentally-induced viral URI. 

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1. Individuals with shorter leukocyte telomere length demonstrate less resistance to experimentally-induced viral URI.

2. This association was present across all age groups studied, though the effect was more pronounced as individuals aged.

Over the past decade, numerous studies have established the important predictive value of short telomere length on age-related morbidity and mortality. By demonstrating an association between telomere length and resistance to viral infection among young, healthy individuals, this study suggests that telomere length may have important functional consequences throughout the lifespan. Though the clinical significance of this small prospective study remain unclear, the implication that telomere length may serve as a marker of disease susceptibility from young adulthood onward warrants further study.

Click to read the study in JAMA

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1. Individuals with shorter leukocyte telomere length demonstrate less resistance to experimentally-induced viral URI.

2. This association was present across all age groups studied, though the effect was more pronounced as individuals aged.

This [prospective study] included 152 healthy individuals, aged 18-55, in Pittsburgh, PA. Blood was collected from each participant to assess telomere length in 4 leukocyte populations. Individuals were then quarantined, administered nasal drops containing rhinovirus, and monitored for the development of infection and clinical signs of illness. Infection was defined as isolation of the challenge virus from nasal secretions or at least a 4-fold increased in specific antibody titer. Telomere length was positively correlated with younger age and lower BMI.  Sixty-nine percent of study participants were infected, and logistic regression demonstrated a significant association between shorter telomere length and increased risk of infection. This association increased with increasing participant age. It was most marked among CD8CD28- cells, which was also the only cell subset in which telomere length correlated with clinical illness.

In sum: Over the past decade, numerous studies have established the important predictive value of short telomere length on age-related morbidity and mortality. By demonstrating an association between telomere length and resistance to viral infection among young, healthy individuals, this study suggests that telomere length may have important functional consequences throughout the lifespan. Though the clinical significance of this small prospective study remain unclear, the implication that telomere length may serve as a marker of disease susceptibility from young adulthood onward warrants further study.

Click to read the study in JAMA

By Elizabeth Kersten and Andrew Bishara

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