Influenza virus infection in a compromised immune system
Campbell, Gillian Mhairi
Severe influenza virus infection, including human infection with highly pathogenic H5N1 viruses is characterised by massive pulmonary inflammation, immunopathology and excessive cytokine production, a process in which macrophages may play a vital role. The aim of this project was to investigate the hypothesis that inhibition of inflammatory responses from infected macrophages, using either alternatively activated bone marrow derived macrophages (BMDMf), or IFNg receptor deficient (IFNgR-/-) mice may ameliorate the devastating immunopathology and inflammation routinely observed in highly pathogenic influenza virus infections. Infection of alternatively activated BMDMf resulted in enhanced positivity for viral proteins, compared with classically activated, inflammatory BMDMf. However, neither subset propagated the infection indicating that while infection is abortive in both classical and alternatively activated BMDMf, the latter may prove more efficient at removing infectious virus from the site of infection due to enhanced infectivity. However, influenza virus was capable of driving expression of proinflammatory mediators such as iNOS and TNFa from classical and alternatively activated BMDMf even in the absence of IFNg signalling. IFNgR-/- BMDMf demonstrated a reduced inflammatory response to infection compared to Sv129 counterparts, suggesting a potentially impaired inflammatory response in vivo. This was investigated by infection of IFNgR-/- mice, which resulted in ameliorated disease, lower viral titres and mild immunopathology, demonstrating that inhibition of IFNg signalling limits the severity of disease. Additionally, mRNA expression for key inflammatory mediators was reduced, demonstrating that inhibition of the overwhelming inflammatory response to influenza virus infection is beneficial to the host, resulting in protection from immunopathology and improved prognosis, without impairing viral clearance.