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Approved Research

Antibodies to human herpesviruses and risk of incident cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality

Principal Investigator: Dr Charlotte Warren-Gash
Approved Research ID: 63816
Approval date: August 7th 2020

Lay summary

Herpesviruses are common: around 95% of UK adults have been infected with varicella zoster virus and around 50-70% have experienced herpes simplex virus type 1 or cytomegalovirus infection. After initial infection, these viruses lie dormant, but they can reactivate when the immune system is under stress. Some studies have linked virus reactivation to other diseases such as stroke and dementia. However, a better understanding of the nature of these relationships is essential to identify who is at risk and during which time periods, to guide preventive efforts.
Research into herpesviruses is hampered by difficulties measuring virus reactivation. While some people experience typical signs and symptoms such as cold sores (due to herpes simplex virus), or shingles (a painful blistering rash caused by varicella zoster virus), these events may not be well recorded in GP or hospital records. Antibodies against the viruses detected in blood samples show a person's infection status, while the level of antibodies may reflect the degree of virus reactivation.

In this study, we will investigate whether having high antibody levels to three common herpesviruses is associated with the risk of heart attack, stroke and death in the UK Biobank cohort. This will inform future research into interventions such as vaccines to prevent complications of herpesviruses in older age.