Association between quantitative varicella-zoster virus antibody levels and zoster reactivation in HIV-infected persons

Heather S. Pomerantz*, Xiaohe Xu, James White, T. S. Sunil, Robert G. Deiss, Anuradha Ganesan, Brian K. Agan, Jason F. Okulicz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) reactivation is common but difficult to predict in HIV-infected persons. Objective: Since qualitative VZV antibodies can determine past VZV disease or vaccination, we evaluated whether quantitative VZV antibody levels over time can predict future zoster. Study design: US Military HIV Natural History (NHS) participants with a zoster diagnosis at least 5years after HIV diagnosis (n=100) were included. Zoster-negative controls (n=200) were matched by age, race, gender, and CD4 count at HIV diagnosis. Repository plasma specimens collected at baseline and prior to zoster diagnosis were evaluated using a quantitative anti-VZV ELISA assay. Differences in quantitative VZV levels were analyzed by Wilcoxon Mann-Whitney and Fisher's exact tests. Results: Median CD4 count at HIV diagnosis was similar for cases and controls (535 [IQR 384-666] vs. 523 [IQR 377-690] cells/μL; p=0.940), but lower for cases at zoster diagnosis (436 [IQR 277-631] vs. 527 [IQR 367-744] cells/μL; p=0.007). Antiretroviral therapy (ART) use prior to zoster diagnosis was lower for cases (52.0%) compared to controls (64.5%; p=0.025). Cases had similar mean VZV antibody levels prior to zoster diagnosis compared to controls [2.25±0.85 vs. 2.44±0.96 index value/optical density (OD) ratio; p=0.151] with no difference in the change in antibody levels over time (0.08±0.71 vs. 0.01±0.94 index value/OD per year; p=0.276). Conclusion: Quantitative VZV antibody levels are stable in HIV-infected persons and do not predict zoster reactivation. Low CD4 count and lack of ART use appear to be better predictors of future zoster diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number25
JournalAIDS Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 11 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • HIV
  • Military
  • Varicella zoster virus


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