Background: Activated eosinophils cause major pathology in stable and exacerbating asthma; however, they can also display protective properties like an extracellular antiviral activity. Initial murine studies led us to further explore a potential intracellular antiviral activity by eosinophils.
Methods: To follow eosinophil-virus interaction, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza virus were labeled with a fluorescent lipophilic dye (DiD). Interactions with eosinophils were visualized by confocal microscopy, electron microscopy, and flow cytometry. Eosinophil activation was assessed by both flow cytometry and ELISA. In a separate study, eosinophils were depleted in asthma patients using anti-IL-5 (mepolizumab), followed by a challenge with rhinovirus-16 (RV16).
Results: DiD-RSV and DiD-influenza rapidly adhered to human eosinophils and were internalized and inactivated (95% in ≤ 2 hours) as reflected by a reduced replication in epithelial cells. The capacity of eosinophils to capture virus was reduced up to 75% with increasing severity of asthma. Eosinophils were activated by virus in vitro and in vivo. In vivo this correlated with virus-induced loss of asthma control.
Conclusions: This previously unrecognized and in asthma attenuated antiviral property provides a new perspective to eosinophils in asthma. This is indicative of an imbalance between protective and cytotoxic properties by eosinophils that may underlie asthma exacerbations.
Keywords: CD69; RSV; exacerbation; influenza; rhinovirus_16.
© 2019 The Authors. Allergy Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.