In the elderly, another high-risk population, a universal vaccine may be particularly advantageous because the protective antibodies are generated by memory B cells
that tend to be maintained into old age and can be recalled by booster vaccination.
Other investigators have demonstrated that the virus exploits a set of B cells, known as memory B cells, in which it can persist for years.
In work over the past 5 years, summarized in the October 2001 Nature Immunology, he and his colleagues have demonstrated that the virus endures by taking advantage of memory B cells.
Memory B cells also enable vaccines to protect people for decades.
Alternatively, they become memory B cells and wait for subsequent infections by the microbe that initiated the immune response.
In carriers of Epstein-Barr virus, Thorley-Lawson and his colleagues have found that the virus resides in memory B cells.
Two other viral genes, which encode the proteins dubbed LMP1 and LMP2, promote the survival of the newly created memory B cells.
PROTECTIVE PROTEINS Establishing residence in memory B cells is an excellent way for a virus to persevere in a person, but Epstein-Barr virus must also prevent itself from getting evicted from the cell.
Drugs that interfere with telomere maintenance may rid the body's memory B cells of Epstein-Barr virus, Lieberman speculates.