Impact of Staphylococcus aureus Small Colony Variants on Human Lung Epithelial Cells with Subsequent Influenza Virus Infection

Microorganisms. 2020 Dec 15;8(12):1998. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms8121998.


Human beings are exposed to microorganisms every day. Among those, diverse commensals and potential pathogens including Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) compose a significant part of the respiratory tract microbiota. Remarkably, bacterial colonization is supposed to affect the outcome of viral respiratory tract infections, including those caused by influenza viruses (IV). Since 30% of the world's population is already colonized with S. aureus that can develop metabolically inactive dormant phenotypes and seasonal IV circulate every year, super-infections are likely to occur. Although IV and S. aureus super-infections are widely described in the literature, the interactions of these pathogens with each other and the host cell are only scarcely understood. Especially, the effect of quasi-dormant bacterial subpopulations on IV infections is barely investigated. In the present study, we aimed to investigate the impact of S. aureus small colony variants on the cell intrinsic immune response during a subsequent IV infection in vitro. In fact, we observed a significant impact on the regulation of pro-inflammatory factors, contributing to a synergistic effect on cell intrinsic innate immune response and induction of harmful cell death. Interestingly, the cytopathic effect, which was observed in presence of both pathogens, was not due to an increased pathogen load.

Keywords: Staphylococcus aureus; influenza virus; pro-inflammatory response; small colony variants; super-infection.