Dysregulated macrophage-inflammatory protein-2 expression drives illness in bacterial superinfection of influenza
Influenza virus infection is a leading cause of death and disability throughout the world. Influenza-infected hosts are vulnerable to secondary bacterial infection, however, and an ensuing bacterial pneumonia is actually the predominant cause of influenza-attributed deaths during pandemics. A number of mechanisms have been proposed by which influenza may predispose to superinfection with an unrelated or heterologous pathogen, but the subsequent interaction between the host, virus, and bacteria remains an understudied area. In this study, we develop and examine a novel model of heterologous pulmonary infection in which an otherwise subclinical Bordetella parapertussis infection synergizes with an influenza virus infection to yield a life-threatening secondary pneumonia. Despite a profound pulmonary inflammatory response and unaltered viral clearance, bacterial clearance was significantly impaired in heterologously infected mice. No deficits were observed in pulmonary or systemic adaptive immune responses or the viability or function of infiltrating inflammatory cells to explain this phenomenon, and we provide evidence that the onset of severe pulmonary inflammation actually precedes the increased bacterial burden, suggesting that exacerbated inflammation is independent of bacterial burden. To that end, neutralization of the ELR(+) inflammatory chemokine MIP-2 (CXCL2/GRO-beta) attenuated the inflammation, weight loss, and clinical presentation of heterologously infected mice without impacting bacterial burden. These data suggest that pulmonary inflammation, rather than pathogen burden, is the key threat during bacterial superinfection of influenza and that selective chemokine antagonists may be a novel therapeutic intervention in cases of bacterial superinfection of influenza.