Viral and Bacterial Co-Infections in the Lungs: Dangerous Liaisons

Viruses. 2021 Aug 30;13(9):1725. doi: 10.3390/v13091725.


Respiratory tract infections constitute a significant public health problem, with a therapeutic arsenal that remains relatively limited and that is threatened by the emergence of antiviral and/or antibiotic resistance. Viral-bacterial co-infections are very often associated with the severity of these respiratory infections and have been explored mainly in the context of bacterial superinfections following primary influenza infection. This review summarizes our current knowledge of the mechanisms underlying these co-infections between respiratory viruses (influenza viruses, RSV, and SARS-CoV-2) and bacteria, at both the physiological and immunological levels. This review also explores the importance of the microbiome and the pathological context in the evolution of these respiratory tract co-infections and presents the different in vitro and in vivo experimental models available. A better understanding of the complex functional interactions between viruses/bacteria and host cells will allow the development of new, specific, and more effective diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; co-infections; influenza virus; respiratory infections; respiratory syncytial virus; respiratory viruses; superinfections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Coinfection*
  • Disease Management
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Microbiota
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / etiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / etiology
  • Superinfection