Streptococcus pneumoniae (S.p.) and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) are two major pathogens commonly found to coexist in respiratory secretions in patients with acute respiratory infection. Though there is increasing evidence of a synergistic interplay between these two pathobionts, the exact mechanisms remain obscure. The aim of our study was to decipher how coinfection with RSV alter pneumococcal growth dynamics and host immune response and how this impact on the colonisation and invasive properties of S.p. Using in vivo mouse model, we made the key observation that upon coinfection with RSV, the density of pneumococcal colonisation in the nasopharynx and dissemination to the lower respiratory tract were significantly higher in mice previously colonised with S.p. These mice also presented more severe weight loss and delayed recovery compared to mono-infected animals as well as significantly heightened pro-inflammatory cytokine profiles. Measurement of in vitro transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) showed that, upon RSV coinfection, S.p. transmigrate through the epithelial barrier without altering epithelial integrity suggesting a transcellular mechanism rather than paracellular migration. Moreover, RSV-pneumococcal coinfection of human primary nasal epithelial cell demonstrated major changes in host protein expression involved in the catalytic activity, ubiquitination, cytoskeletal organisation, and endocytosis. Simultaneously, significant upregulation observed in bacterial proteins involved in the ribosomal activity, streptococcus-induced tissue inflammation, DNA supercoiling, and bacterial viability during oxidative stress, affecting both the survival and the virulence of S.p. Our results explain the complex interactions between pneumococci, RSV and host and help towards further understanding the significance of viral-bacterial co-infection in clinical settings.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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