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Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2016 Mar;13 Suppl 1:S55-63. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201507-421MG.

Airway Epithelial Orchestration of Innate Immune Function in Response to Virus Infection. A Focus on Asthma.

Author information

1 Airway Disease Infection Section, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College, London, United Kingdom.
2 Medical Research Council and Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma, London, United Kingdom.
3 Imperial College Healthcare National Health Service Trust, London, United Kingdom; and.
4 Guy's and St Thomas' National Health Service Trust, London, United Kingdom.


Asthma is a very common respiratory condition with a worldwide prevalence predicted to increase. There are significant differences in airway epithelial responses in asthma that are of particular interest during exacerbations. Preventing exacerbations is a primary aim when treating asthma because they often necessitate unscheduled healthcare visits and hospitalizations and are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality. The most common cause of asthma exacerbations is a respiratory virus infection, of which the most likely type is rhinovirus infection. This article focuses on the role played by the epithelium in orchestrating the innate immune responses to respiratory virus infection. Recent studies show impaired bronchial epithelial cell innate antiviral immune responses, as well as augmentation of a pro-Th2 response characterized by the epithelial-derived cytokines IL-25 and IL-33, crucial in maintaining the Th2 cytokine response to virus infection in asthma. A better understanding of the mechanisms of these abnormal immune responses has the potential to lead to the development of novel therapeutic targets for virus-induced exacerbations. The aim of this article is to highlight current knowledge regarding the role of viruses and immune modulation in the asthmatic epithelium and to discuss exciting areas for future research and novel treatments.


IFN; asthma; respiratory viruses; rhinovirus

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