Viruses as co-factors for the initiation or exacerbation of lung fibrosis

Fibrogenesis Tissue Repair. 2008 Oct 13;1(1):2. doi: 10.1186/1755-1536-1-2.


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) remains exactly that. The disease originates from an unknown cause, and little is known about the mechanisms of pathogenesis. While the disease is likely multi-factorial, evidence is accumulating to implicate viruses as co-factors (either as initiating or exacerbating agents) of fibrotic lung disease. This review summarizes the available clinical and experimental observations that form the basis for the hypothesis that viral infections may augment fibrotic responses. We review the data suggesting a link between hepatitis C virus, adenovirus, human cytomegalovirus and, in particular, the Epstein-Barr gammaherpesvirus, in IPF. In addition, we highlight the recent associations made between gammaherpesvirus infection and lung fibrosis in horses and discuss the various murine models that have been used to investigate the contribution of gammaherpesviruses to fibrotic progression. We review the work demonstrating that gammaherpesvirus infection of Th2-biased mice leads to multi-organ fibrosis and highlight studies showing that gammaherpesviral infections of mice either pre- or post-fibrotic challenge can augment the development of fibrosis. Finally, we discuss potential mechanisms whereby viral infections may amplify the development of fibrosis. While none of these studies prove causality, we believe the evidence suggests that viral infections should be considered as potential initiators or exacerbating agents in at least some cases of IPF and thereby justify further study.