Relaxation and exercise intervention as a means of modulating antibody to Epstein-Barr and human herpesvirus type-6 in an asymptomatic HIV-1 seropositive and seronegative cohort

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Michael H. Antoni - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Mary Ann Fletcher - Committee Member


This study investigated the effects of a potent psychosocial stressor--HIV serostatus notification--and two behavioral stress reduction interventions, over a ten-week period, on EBV-VCA and HHV-6 antibody titers in 75 healthy HIV+ and HIV$-$gay men. We hypothesized, based on previous work, that the stress of HIV seropositivity notification would be associated with increases in EBV-VCA and HHV-6 antibody titers, reflecting a diminished cell-mediated control of these latent viruses. Moreover, we reasoned that such a stressor-induced immunologic decrement might be buffered or reversed by behavioral interventions designed to reduce distress responses. Overall, these psychosocial stressors and consequent interventions modulated EBV and HHV-6 differentially. Further, this modulation was specific to the viral pathogen and was found to be independent of polyclonal B cell activation, recent EBV infection, and total IgG levels, serum albumin, and hematocrit. Specifically, EBV was much more sensitive to psychosocial influences as evidenced by significant and rapid decreases in antibody titer within the training period (i.e., first 5 weeks) of the intervention. This is in contrast to HHV-6, in which significant decreases were not observed until week 8, and were maintained at week 10. However, in contrast to EBV which was not reactive as a function of either the stress of study entry, or diagnosis stress, although reactive to HIV serostatus, antibody to HHV-6 was significantly elevated at study entry and independent of HIV serostatus. Even though personality style did put some separation within the subjects in that those individuals classified as Repressors or high cynics have significantly higher antibody titers, personality was not able to contribute a significant proportion of the variance, controlling for confounding and intervention effects. Finally, individual differences in mood state did not prove to be a significant mediator in the stress-modulating effects of the interventions in either EBV or HHV-6 reactivation.


Psychology, Experimental; Health Sciences, Immunology

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