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Innate immune responses at the asymptomatic stage of influenza A viral infections of Streptococcus pneumoniae colonized and non-colonized mice

Seasonal Influenza A virus (IAV) infections can promote dissemination of upper respiratory tract commensals such as Streptococcus pneumoniae to the lower respiratory tract resulting in severe life-threatening pneumonia. Here, we aimed to compare innate immune responses in the lungs of healthy colonized and non-colonized mice after IAV challenge at the initial asymptomatic stage of infection. Responses during a severe bacterial pneumonia were profiled for comparison. Cytokine and innate immune cell imprints of the lungs were analyzed. Irrespective of the colonization status, mild H1N1 IAV infection was characterized by a bi-phasic disease progression resulting in full recovery of the animals. Already at the asymptomatic stage of viral infection, the pro-inflammatory cytokine response was as high as in pneumococcal pneumonia. Flow cytometry analyses revealed an early influx of inflammatory monocytes into the lungs. Neutrophil influx was mostly limited to bacterial infections. The majority of cells, except monocytes, displayed an activated phenotype characterized by elevated CCR2 and MHCII expression. In conclusion, we show that IAV challenge of colonized healthy mice does not automatically result in severe co-infection. However, a general local inflammatory response was noted at the asymptomatic stage of infection irrespective of the infection type.

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