One-hit wonder: Late after burn injury, granulocytes can clear one bacterial infection but cannot control a subsequent infection

Burns. 2019 May;45(3):627-640. doi: 10.1016/j.burns.2018.08.019. Epub 2019 Mar 2.


Objective: Burn injury induces an acute hyperactive immune response followed by a chronic immune dysregulation that leaves those afflicted susceptible to multiple secondary infections. Many murine models are able to recapitulate the acute immune response to burn injury, yet few models are able to recapitulate long-term immune suppression and thus chronic susceptibility to bacterial infections seen in burn patients. This has hindered the field, making evaluation of the mechanisms responsible for these susceptibilities difficult to study. Herein we describe a novel mouse model of burn injury that promotes chronic immune suppression allowing for susceptibility to primary and secondary infections and thus allows for the evaluation of associated mechanisms.

Methods: C57Bl/6 mice receiving a full-thickness contact burn were infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa 14 days (primary infection) and/or 17 days (secondary infection) after burn or sham injury. The survival, pulmonary and systemic bacterial load as well as frequency and function of innate immune cells (neutrophils and macrophages) were evaluated.

Results: Following secondary infection, burn mice were less effective in clearance of bacteria compared to sham injured or burn mice following a primary infection. Following secondary infection both neutrophils and macrophages recruited to the airways exhibited reduced production of anti-bacterial reactive oxygen and nitrogen species and the pro-inflammatory cytokineIL-12 while macrophages demonstrated increased expression of the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10 compared to those from sham burned mice and/or burn mice receiving a primary infection. In addition the BALF from these mice contained significantly higher level so of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-4 compared to those from sham burned mice and/or burn mice receiving a primary infection.

Conclusions: Burn-mediated protection from infection is transient, with a secondary infection inducing immune protection to collapse. Repeated infection leads to increased neutrophil and macrophage numbers in the lungs late after burn injury, with diminished innate immune cell function and an increased anti-inflammatory cytokine environment.

Keywords: Burn; Granulocytes; Macrophages; Neutrophils; Pseudomonas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology
  • Bacterial Load
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid
  • Burns / immunology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Immune Tolerance / immunology*
  • Immunocompromised Host / immunology
  • Interleukin-10 / immunology
  • Interleukin-12 / immunology
  • Interleukin-4 / immunology
  • Lung / immunology*
  • Lung / microbiology
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / immunology*
  • Pseudomonas Infections / immunology*
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Recurrence
  • Time Factors


  • Reactive Nitrogen Species
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Interleukin-10
  • Interleukin-12
  • Interleukin-4