Initiation and pathogenesis of Staphylococcus aureus Pneumonia following influenza A infection
Borgogna, Timothy Ryan
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Infection influenza A virus (IAV) leads to increased host susceptibility to secondary bacterial pneumonia. In cases such as these, Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) has emerged as the dominant bacterial pathogen associated with severe infection outcomes. S. aureus is a common commensal of the anterior nares and is frequently trafficked into the lower respiratory tract through inhalations, micro-aspirations, and direct mucosal dispersion. Despite recurrent exposure to the lungs and the capacity to cause severe disease, cases of S. aureus pneumonia are rare in immunocompetent hosts. Previous efforts interrogating S. aureus secondary bacterial pneumonia have largely focused on the immunomodulation that occurs during the antecedent influenza infection and have ignored the virulence contributions of the bacterial pathogen. To that end, we developed a murine model of secondary pneumonia to investigate S. aureus pathogenesis following influenza A infection. We identify that secondary bacterial pneumonia by S. aureus is dependent on the activation of the two-component regulatory system (TCS) SaeR/S. Further, studies demonstrated that in the absence of IAV infection the healthy lung environment suppresses virulence gene expression. Characterization of the lung environment revealed that the lipid constituents of pulmonary surfactant suppress S. aureus virulence production. Our data provide a model of secondary bacterial pneumonia wherein infection with IAV significantly reduces surfactant lipid concentrations within the lungs. The reduction of pulmonary surfactant lipids leads to a loss of S. aureus virulence suppression and rapid activation of the major virulence regulator saeR/S. Taken together, these data provide a strong rational for the low incidence of primary S. aureus pneumonia and the increased severity of S. aureus pneumonia following antecedent influenza A infection. Furthermore, these data highlight possible pulmonary surfactant replacement therapies that may significantly alleviate secondary bacterial pneumonia morbidity and mortality.