Clearance of Staphylococcus aureus nasal carriage is T cell dependent and mediated through interleukin-17A expression and neutrophil influx

Infect Immun. 2013 Jun;81(6):2070-5. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00084-13. Epub 2013 Mar 25.


The anterior nares of humans are the major reservoir for Staphylococcus aureus colonization. Approximately 20% of the healthy human population is persistently and 80% is intermittently colonized with S. aureus in the nasal cavity. Previous studies have shown a strong causal connection between S. aureus nasal carriage and increased risk of nosocomial infection, as well as increased carriage due to immune dysfunction. However, the immune responses that permit persistence or mediate clearance of S. aureus on the nasal mucosa are fundamentally undefined. In this study, we developed a carriage model in C57BL/6J mice and showed that clearance begins 14 days postinoculation. In contrast, SCID mice that have a deficient adaptive immune response are unable to eliminate S. aureus even after 28 days postinoculation. Furthermore, decolonization was found to be T cell mediated but B cell independent by evaluating carriage clearance in T-cell receptor β/δ (TCR-β/δ) knockout (KO) and IgH-μ KO mice, respectively. Upregulation of the cytokines interleukin 1β (IL-1β), KC (also termed CXC ligand 1 [CXCL1]), and IL-17A occurred following inoculation with intranasal S. aureus. IL-17A production was crucial for clearance, since IL-17A-deficient mice were unable to effectively eliminate S. aureus carriage. Subsequently, cell differential counts were evaluated from nasal lavage fluid obtained from wild-type and IL-17A-deficient colonized mice. These counts displayed IL-17A-dependent neutrophil migration. Antibody-mediated depletion of neutrophils in colonized mice caused reduced clearance compared to that in isotype-treated controls. Our data suggest that the Th17-associated immune response is required for nasal decolonization. This response is T cell dependent and mediated via IL-17A production and neutrophil influx. Th17-associated immune responses may be targeted for strategies to mitigate distal infections originating from persistent S. aureus carriage in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes
  • Carrier State / immunology
  • Carrier State / microbiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-17 / genetics
  • Interleukin-17 / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-23 / genetics
  • Interleukin-23 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neutrophils / physiology*
  • Nose / immunology
  • Nose / microbiology*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / drug therapy*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / immunology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / immunology
  • Staphylococcus aureus / physiology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology*


  • Interleukin-17
  • Interleukin-23