Primary infection with varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes the characteristic syndrome of varicella, or chickenpox. Experiments in severe combined immunodeficiency mice with human skin grafts (SCIDhu mice) indicate that VZV infection of T cells can mediate transfer of infectious virus to skin. VZV-infected T cells reached epithelial sites of replication within 24 h after entering the circulation. Memory CD4+ T cells were the predominant population recovered from skin in SCIDhu mice given uninfected or infected mononuclear cells, suggesting that immune surveillance by memory T cells may facilitate VZV transfer. The increased susceptibility of memory T cells to VZV infection may further enhance their role in VZV pathogenesis. During VZV skin infection, viral gene products down-regulated interferon-alpha to permit focal replication, whereas adjacent epidermal cells mounted a potent interferon-alpha response against cell-cell spread. Interleukin-1alpha, although activated in VZV-infected cells, did not trigger expression of endothelial adhesion molecules, thereby avoiding early recruitment of inflammatory cells. The prolonged varicella incubation period appears to represent the time required for VZV to overcome antiviral responses of epidermal cells and generate vesicles at the skin surface. Modulation of VZV replication by cutaneous innate immunity may avoid an incapacitating infection of the host that would limit opportunities for VZV transmission.
View details for DOI 10.1084/jem.20040634
View details for Web of Science ID 000224380700009
View details for PubMedID 15452178