Cystic Fibrosis Clinical Isolates of Aspergillus fumigatus Induce Similar Muco-inflammatory Responses in Primary Airway Epithelial Cells

Pathogens. 2021 Aug 13;10(8):1020. doi: 10.3390/pathogens10081020.


Aspergillus is increasingly associated with lung inflammation and mucus plugging in early cystic fibrosis (CF) disease during which conidia burden is low and strains appear to be highly diverse. It is unknown whether clinical Aspergillus strains vary in their capacity to induce epithelial inflammation and mucus production. We tested the hypothesis that individual colonising strains of Aspergillus fumigatus would induce different responses. Ten paediatric CF Aspergillus isolates were compared along with two systemically invasive clinical isolates and an ATCC reference strain. Isolates were first characterised by ITS gene sequencing and screened for antifungal susceptibility. Three clusters (A-C) of Aspergillus isolates were identified by ITS. Antifungal susceptibility was variable, particularly for itraconazole. Submerged CF and non-CF monolayers as well as differentiated primary airway epithelial cell cultures were incubated with conidia for 24 h to allow germination. None of the clinical isolates were found to significantly differ from one another in either IL-6 or IL-8 release or gene expression of secretory mucins. Clinical Aspergillus isolates appear to be largely homogenous in their mucostimulatory and immunostimulatory capacities and, therefore, only the antifungal resistance characteristics are likely to be clinically important.

Keywords: Aspergillus; cystic fibrosis; epithelium; host response; inflammation.