Primary varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infection in adults is often complicated by severe pneumonia, which is difficult to treat and is associated with high morbidity and mortality. Here, the simian varicella virus (SVV) nonhuman primate (NHP) model was used to investigate the pathogenesis of varicella pneumonia. SVV infection resulted in transient fever, viremia, and robust virus replication in alveolar pneumocytes and bronchus-associated lymphoid tissue. Clearance of infectious virus from lungs coincided with robust innate immune responses, leading to recruitment of inflammatory cells, mainly neutrophils and lymphocytes, and finally severe acute lung injury. SVV infection caused neutrophil activation and formation of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) in vitro and in vivo. Notably, NETs were also detected in lung and blood specimens of varicella pneumonia patients. Lung pathology in the SVV NHP model was associated with dysregulated expression of alveolar epithelial cell tight junction proteins (claudin-2, claudin-10, and claudin-18) and alveolar endothelial adherens junction protein VE-cadherin. Importantly, factors released by activated neutrophils, including NETs, were sufficient to reduce claudin-18 and VE-cadherin expression in NHP lung slice cultures. Collectively, the data indicate that alveolar barrier disruption in varicella pneumonia is associated with NET formation.
Werner J.D. Ouwendijk, Henk-Jan van den Ham, Mark W. Delany, Jeroen J.A. van Kampen, Gijsbert P. van Nierop, Tamana Mehraban, Fatiha Zaaraoui-Boutahar, Wilfred F.J. van IJcken, Judith M.A. van den Brand, Rory D. de Vries, Arno C. Andeweg, Georges M.G.M. Verjans
SVV infection of cynomolgus macaques causes transient fever and fulminant pneumonia.