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J Immunol. 2009 Dec 1;183(11):7441-50. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0902497. Epub 2009 Nov 16.

Neutrophils ameliorate lung injury and the development of severe disease during influenza infection.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


The clinical response to influenza infection ranges from mild disease to severe pneumonia and it remains unclear whether the inflammatory response to infection is protective or pathogenic. We have defined a novel role for neutrophils in ameliorating lung injury during influenza infection, thereby limiting development of severe disease. Infection of neutrophil-depleted mice with influenza virus HKx31 (H3N2) led to rapid weight loss, pneumonia, and death. Neutropenia was associated with enhanced virus replication in the respiratory tract; however, viral titers were declining at the time of death, leading us to investigate other factors contributing to mortality. In addition to thymic atrophy, lymphopenia, and viremic spread, depletion of neutrophils led to exacerbated pulmonary inflammation, edema, and respiratory dysfunction. Thus, while it is well established that neutrophils contribute to lung injury in a range of pathological conditions, reduced numbers or impaired neutrophil function can facilitate progression of mild influenza to severe clinical disease.

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