Age-related declines in cell-mediated immunity (CMI) are associated with the incidence and severity of Herpes Zoster (HZ) infection. However, the level of Varicella–Zoster virus (VZV)-specific CMI associated with disease onset is unclear. This study aimed to examine factors associated with VZV-specific CMI, as measured by an interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay, in a Japanese cohort. The study enrolled 365 subjects aged 60 years and over, all of whom were taking part in the Shozu Herpes Zoster (SHEZ) study and had undergone four sets of blood and intradermal reaction tests during a 3 year follow-up period. The VZV-specific immunity profile of each subject was assessed, and linear mixed effects models were constructed to analyze IFN-γ ELISPOT results in association with a combination of factors. The model that best explained the IFN-γ ELISPOT results was selected using the Akaike Information Criteria. The best-fit model consisted of age group as the only explanatory fixed-effect variable. The model showed that VZV-specific CMI, quantified as numbers of spots on the ELISPOT assay, among subjects aged 70–79 was on average 10.30 points lower than that among subjects aged 60–69. There was no statistically significant difference between subjects aged 70–79 and those aged 80–89. Age was the only factor significantly associated with the level of VZV-specific CMI, as measured by the IFN-γ ELISPOT assay. These results may represent an important step towards quantifying the relationship between VZV-specific CMI and the onset of HZ. J. Med. Virol. 89:313–317, 2017.
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