Ageing process may result in a progressive decline in the immune response, known as immunosenescence (IS) which increases the susceptibility of elderly persons to infection, autoimmune disease, and cancer. With advancing age, naive T-cells are gradually being replaced by senescent phenotypes. Frailty is a geriatric syndrome characterized by a state of increased vulnerability at higher age. IS as been implicate in Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection can exacerbate T-cell senescence and promote IS. However, little is known regarding the effects of CMV in mediating frailty. Physical exercise is being considered as a safe countermeasure against IS in the older persons. One hundred older women (> 65 years) were randomized to 2-3 times/weekly training for 6 weeks at either intensive strength (IST: 3x10 repetitions at 80% 1RM, n=31), strength endurance (SET: 2x30 repetitions at 40% 1RM, n=33), or flexibility (control, n=36) training. 6 weeks of SET decreased significantly the percentage and absolute blood count of senescence-prone T-cells in older women. When taking CMV into consideration, SET significantly decreased senescence-prone T-cells along with a concomitant increase in the naive T-cells in CMV-seropositives but not CMV-seronegatives. In 173 persons aged 80 to 99 years, pre-frailty does not require the CMV infection as a necessary factor for its development in the very old. In conclusion, strength endurance training has an anti-IS effect following 6 weeks of training in older women. In addition, CMV-serostatus plays a significant role in the immune adaptation in response to physical exercise. The presence of pre-frailty was independent from CMV infection in the very old. Exercise should be encouraged, particularly for the older adults with compromised immune system.
Date of Award11 Sep 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
SupervisorRose Njemini (Promotor), Ivan Bautmans (Co-promotor), Marcello Maggio (Jury), Florence Chainiaux (Jury), Ilse Rooman (Jury), Christian Demanet (Jury) & David Beckwée (Jury)


  • pre-frailty
  • older persons
  • Cytomegali virus

Cite this