Exposure to UV radiation is recognized to suppress cell-mediated immunity and therefore could adversely affect the course of a viral infection. Rodent models of viral infection confirm this possibility but the situation in human subjects is not so clear, apart from two exceptions. These are herpes simplex, in which sunlight exposure can cause reactivation, and certain papillomavirus types in which sunlight exposure can lead to the development of nonmelanoma skin cancer. In both cases, there are UV response elements in the viral genomes that alter the normal interactions between the viruses and the host following exposure, and UV-induced effects on the immune response occur in addition. These complex mechanisms are discussed, and the situation regarding UV radiation and viral exanthems plus other viruses, including the retroviruses, summarized. Finally viral vaccination is considered in the context of UV exposure and the importance of the host's genetic background emphasized. Further research is required to evaluate whether sunlight can significantly affect the resistance to common viral infections and vaccines.
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Vol. 82 • No. 6