Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection can cause mucus overproduction and bronchiolitis in infants leading to severe disease and hospitalization. As a therapeutic strategy, immune modulatory agents may help prevent RSV-driven immune responses that cause severe airway disease. We developed a high throughput screen to identify compounds that reduced RSV-driven mucin 5AC (Muc5AC) expression and identified dexamethasone. Despite leading to a pronounced reduction in RSV-driven Muc5AC, dexamethasone increased RSV infection in vitro and delayed viral clearance in mice. This correlated with reduced expression of a subset of immune response genes and reduced lymphocyte infiltration in vivo. Interestingly, dexamethasone increased RSV infection levels without altering antiviral interferon signaling. In summary, the immunosuppressive activities of dexamethasone had favorable inhibitory effects on RSV-driven mucus production yet prevented immune defense activities that limit RSV infection in vitro and in vivo. These findings offer an explanation for the lack of efficacy of glucocorticoids in RSV-infected patients.
Keywords: Dexamethasone; Glucocorticoid; Interferon; Muc5AC; Mucus; RSV; Respiratory syncytial virus.
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