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Seropositivity for CMV and IL-6 levels are associated with grip strength and muscle size in the elderly

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    Rights statement: © 2013 Kilgour et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Original languageEnglish
Article number33
Number of pages8
JournalImmunity and Ageing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2013



Sarcopenia is an important cause of morbidity and mortality in older adults, with immunosenescence and inflammation being possible underlying mechanisms. We investigated the relationship between latent cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, Interleukin 6 (IL-6) levels, muscle size and strength in a group of healthy older community-dwelling people.


Participants were healthy volunteers from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 study. Participants had IL-6 level and CMV antibody titre measured at age 70 years and grip strength and a volumetric T1-weighted MRI brain scan (allowing measurement of neck muscle cross-sectional area (CSA)) at age 73. Markers of childhood deprivation were adjusted for in the analysis due to correlations between childhood deprivation and latent CMV infection.


866 participants were studied; 448 men (mean age 72.48 years, sd 0.70) and 418 women (mean age 72.51 years, sd 0.72). In men, CMV seropositivity was associated with smaller neck muscle CSA (p = 0.03, partial eta squared = 0.01), even after adjustment for IL-6 levels. Neck muscle CSA was not associated with CMV seropositivity in women, or CMV antibody titre or IL-6 level in either sex. Grip strength associated negatively with IL-6 level (right grip strength p<0.00001, partial eta squared 0.032 and left grip strength p<0.00001, partial eta squared 0.027) with or without adjustment for CMV serostatus or antibody titre. CMV status and antibody titre were not significantly associated with grip strength in either hand.


These findings support the hypothesis that there is a relationship between markers of immunosenescence (i.e. CMV serostatus and IL6 level) and low muscle mass and strength and longitudinal studies in older cohorts are now required to investigate these relationships further.

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