Association between persistent pathogens and telomere shortening

September 26, 2017 | Press Releases & Announcements

Dr. Jennifer Dowd

Dr. Jennifer Dowd

Dr. Jennifer Dowd, a professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH), and colleagues examined the association between seropositivity to four persistent pathogens (cytomegalovirus (CMV), herpes simplex virus-1, Helicobacter pylori, Chlamydia pneumoniae), and total pathogen burden on leukocyte telomere length in a diverse US sample.

Data came from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, a population-based cohort study. The research team utilized cross-sectional survey data, and biological samples from participants tested for pathogens and telomere length (N = 163). Linear regression was used to examine the association between seropositivity for individual pathogens as well as total pathogen burden and telomere length, adjusting for various confounders.

Cytomegalovirus seropositivity and increased total pathogen burden level were significantly associated with shorter telomere length among females but not among males. The findings suggest that prevention or treatment of persistent pathogens, in particular cytomegalovirus, may play an important role in reducing telomere shortening over the life course among women.


Aiello, A., Jayabalasingham, B., Simanek, A., Diez-Roux, A., Feinstein, L., Meier, H., Needham, B. and Dowd, J. (2017). The impact of pathogen burden on leukocyte telomere length in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Epidemiology and Infection, pp.1-9.