Rationale: The mechanism by which viruses cause exacerbations of chronic airway disease and the capacity of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) to respond to viral infection are not precisely known.
Objectives: To determine the antiviral response to infection in patients with CF.
Methods: Sputum was collected from patients with CF with respiratory exacerbation. Viruses were detected in multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assays. Gene expression of 84 antiviral response genes was measured, using a focused quantitative PCR gene array.
Measurements and main results: We examined 36 samples from 23 patients with respiratory exacerbation. Fourteen samples tested virus-positive and 22 virus-negative. When we compared exacerbations associated with rhinovirus (RV, n = 9) and influenza (n = 5) with virus-negative specimens, we found distinct patterns of antiviral gene expression. RV was associated with greater than twofold induction of five genes, including those encoding the monocyte-attracting chemokines CXCL10, CXCL11, and CXCL9. Influenza was associated with overexpression of 20 genes, including those encoding the cytokines tumor necrosis factor and IL-12; the kinases MEK, TBK-1, and STAT-1; the apoptosis proteins caspase-8 and caspase-10; the influenza double-stranded RNA receptor RIG-I and its downstream effector MAVS; and pyrin, an IFN-stimulated protein involved in influenza resistance.
Conclusions: We conclude that virus-induced exacerbations of CF are associated with immune responses tailored to specific infections. Influenza induced a more potent response consisting of inflammation, whereas RV infection had a pronounced effect on chemokine expression. As far as we are aware, this study is the first to compare specific responses to different viruses in live patients with chronic airway disease.