Viral respiratory infections have been implicated in influencing allergen sensitization and the development of asthma, but their exact role remains controversial. Because respiratory exposure to Ag normally engenders T cell tolerance and prevents the development of airway hyperreactivity (AHR) and inflammation, we examined the effects of influenza A virus infection on tolerance induced by exposure to intranasal (i.n.) OVA and the subsequent development of AHR. We found that concurrent infection with influenza A abrogated tolerance induced by exposure to i.n. OVA, and instead led to the development of AHR accompanied by the production of OVA-specific IgE, IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, and IFN-gamma. When both IL-4 and IL-5 were neutralized in this system, AHR was still induced, suggesting that influenza-induced cytokines such as IL-13, or mechanisms unrelated to cytokines, might be responsible for the development of AHR. The length of time between influenza A infection and i.n. exposure to OVA was crucial, because mice exposed to i.n. OVA 15-30 days after viral inoculation developed neither AHR nor OVA-specific tolerance. These mice instead acquired Th1-biased OVA-specific immune responses associated with vigorous OVA-induced T cell proliferation, and reduced production of OVA-specific IgE. The protective effect of influenza A on AHR was dependent on IFN-gamma, because protection was abrogated with a neutralizing anti-IFN-gamma mAb. These results suggest that viral respiratory infection interferes with the development of respiratory allergen-induced tolerance, and that the time interval between viral infection and allergen exposure is critical in determining whether viral infection will enhance, or protect against, the development of respiratory allergen sensitization and AHR.
View details for Web of Science ID 000165938100073
View details for PubMedID 10975869