Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Infections, Psychological Stress, and Mood Disorders

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a beta-herpes virus that may be associated with aging and many health problems. The infection of CMV can be asymptomatic. However, higher levels of serum cytokines including TNF-alpha and IL-6 have been observed in CMV infections, which can lead to mood disorders and damaged wellbeing (Phillips et al., 2008). Furthermore, psychological stress has been suggested to increase the non-clinical reactivation of CMV (Rector et al., 2014).

In a study to analyze the relationship between CMV infections and mood alterations in 137 older adults, CMV-specific IgG and the antibody titer were measured in blood samples (Phillips et al., 2008). The study found that those individuals who were CMV-positive with increased CMV-specific antibody titers had higher chances of having psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. The CMV-specific immune responses and the proinflammatory cytokines may play an important role in such relationships between CMV infections and mood disorders.

In another study of 887 people with a mean age of 44, plasma samples were also measured for CMV-specific IgG antibodies (CMV-IgG) (Rector et al., 2014). The study found that among the 329 individuals infected with CMV, increased CMV-IgG levels were related to higher levels of anxiety and depression. In addition, the CMV infections, as well as the associated psychological alterations, were also strongly connected to lower education and job status (Rector et al., 2014).

These studies have indicated the link between psychological stress and CMV infections.  It would be interesting to have further investigations on the associations between the stress-induced CMV replication and major health problems such as aging in both psychological and physiological aspects.


Phillips AC, Carroll D, Khan N, Moss P. Cytomegalovirus is associated with depression and anxiety in older adults. Brain Behav Immun. 2008 Jan;22(1):52-5.

Rector JL, Dowd JB, Loerbroks A, Burns VE, Moss P, Jarczok MN, Stalder T, Hoffman K, Fischer JE, Bosch JA. Consistent associations between measures of psychological stress and CMV antibody levels in a large occupational sample. Brain Behav Immun. 2014 Jan 26.

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