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Lois Verbrugge, Disability Experience & Measurement

Socioeconomic gradients in immune response to latent infection

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Dowd, J.B., Mary Haan, L. Blythe, K. Moore, and A.E. Aiello. 2008. "Socioeconomic gradients in immune response to latent infection." American Journal of Epidemiology, 167:112-120.

There is a strong relation between socioeconomic position and health outcomes, although the mechanisms are poorly understood. The authors used data from 1,503 California participants in the 1998-1999 Sacramento Area Latino Study on Aging aged 60-100 years to ask whether socioeconomic position is related to immune function as measured by the body's ability to keep latent herpesvirus antibody levels in a quiescent state. Individuals with lower educational levels had significantly higher levels of immunoglobulin G antibodies to cytomegalovirus and herpes simplex virus type 1. The odds ratio for being in a higher tertile of cytomegalovirus antibodies was 1.54 (95% confidence interval: 1.18, 2.01) for those in the lowest educational group, and the odds ratio for being in a higher tertile of herpes simplex virus type 1 was 1.63 (95% confidence interval: 1.25, 2.13). The relation between education and cytomegalovirus and herpes simplex virus type 1 antibody levels remained strong after controlling for baseline health conditions, smoking status, and body mass index. This is the first study known to show a relation between socioeconomic position and immune response to latent infection. It provides suggestive evidence that modulation of the immune system via latent infections may play a role in the observed associations between socioeconomic position and disease.

DOI:10.1093/aje/kwm247 (Full Text)

Country of focus: United States of America.

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