Viral-bacterial interactions in the respiratory tract

Carla Bellinghausen, Gernot G U Rohde, Paul H M Savelkoul, Emiel F M Wouters, Frank R M Stassen

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45 Citations (Scopus)


In the respiratory tract, viruses and bacteria can interact on multiple levels. It is well known that respiratory viruses, particularly influenza viruses, increase the susceptibility to secondary bacterial infections. Numerous mechanisms, including compromised physical and immunological barriers, and changes in the microenvironment have hereby been shown to contribute to the development of secondary bacterial infections. In contrast, our understanding of how bacteria shape a response to subsequent viral infection is still limited. There is emerging evidence that persistent infection (or colonization) of the lower respiratory tract (LRT) with potential pathogenic bacteria, as observed in diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cystic fibrosis, modulates subsequent viral infections by increasing viral entry receptors and modulating the inflammatory response. Moreover, recent studies suggest that even healthy lungs are not, as had long been assumed, sterile. The composition of the lung microbiome may thus modulate responses to viral infections. Here we summarize the current knowledge on the co-pathogenesis between viruses and bacteria in LRT infections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3089-3102
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of general virology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016

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