Study of diverse host immune responses to viral and bacterial pathogens
Plewa, Jack Bruno
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Brucella abortus is the bacterium that causes brucellosis, an infection transmitted from cattle to people, often through consumption of raw milk and contact with aborted materials. With antibiotic resistance on the rise, phage therapy for bacterial infection may become a useful approach. The direct effects of phage on mammalian cells is important to understand, yet understudied. In vivo delivery of low phage MOI to the mouse lung was more effective at diminishing Brucella burden than higher doses of phage. In an in vitro model of intracellular Brucella infection, low phage MOI was capable of minimizing human THP-1 monocyte infection, but, unexpectedly, use of higher phage MOI diminished this effect. We hypothesized that recognition of these phage preparations may induce an antiviral immune suppressive response that may counteract their anti-bacterial effects. Indeed, when the type I IFN signaling pathway was disrupted in mice, phage treatment was more effective. However, when attempting to induce type I IFN in vitro using both human monocyte and mouse macrophage cell lines, we were unable to stimulate expression of type I IFN with Brucella phage, including in response to a combination of phage and bacteria. We then examined the effect of phage treatment on macrophage cell surface markers that are indicative of activation/differentiation. Interestingly, while Brucella LPS induced expression of CD71 and CD206, the addition of phage suppressed upregulation of these markers. Our discovery of immune suppressive effects of Brucella bacteriophage is an important consideration for using phage as a treatment.