Early-Life Stress Linked to Cytomegalovirus Infection in Patients With Major Depressive Disorder

Blood sample for cytomegalovirus testing
Individuals with major depressive disorder who experienced childhood trauma were more likely to test positive for cytomegalovirus.

Individuals with major depressive disorder who experienced more early-life stress than their peers were more likely to test positive for cytomegalovirus (CMV), according to an article published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Investigators evaluated early-life stress as a risk factor for CMV infection in 2 samples of adults with major depressive disorder: 179 in a discovery cohort (mean age, 36.2; 77.1% women; 87.2% white) and 295 in a replication cohort (mean age, 34.9; 62.4% women; 84.2% white).

Investigators measured serum immunoglobulin G antibodies to CMV using a semiquantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and participants reported early-life stress by completing the 28-item Childhood Trauma Questionnaire.

After controlling for age, sex, and ethnicity, investigators found that individuals with more early-life stress had increased odds of testing positive for CMV in both the discovery (odds ratio [OR], 1.02; 95% CI, 1.00- 1.04; P =.04) and replication (OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 1.01-1.03; P =.005) samples. Individuals who reported more physical abuse were also more likely to test positive for CMV in the discovery (OR, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.02-1.20; P =.02) and replication cohorts (OR, 1.08; 95% CI, 1.02-1.16; P =.02). The same was true for those who reported more sexual abuse in the discovery (OR, 1.08; 95% CI, 1.03- 1.14; P =.003) and replication samples (OR, 1.07; 95% CI, 1.02- 1.13; P=.009).

“Our study adds vulnerability to CMV (and potentially to other viruses such as herpes simplex virus 1) to the list of consequences of early-life stress [on health],” the investigators wrote.

“If substantiated, this finding has important clinical implications given that currently available pharmacological agents to control CMV infection are effective in some circumstances and that new therapeutic approaches are under development,” the investigators added.


Ford BN, Yolken RH, Aupperle RL, et al. Association of early-life stress with cytomegalovirus infection in adults with major depressive disorder [published online March 6, 2019]. JAMA Psychiatry. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.4543

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This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor