Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive and fatal disease characterized by collagen deposition within the lung interstitium. Bacterial infection is associated with increased morbidity and more rapid mortality in IPF patient populations, and pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are commonly isolated from the lungs of hospitalized patients with IPF. Despite this, the effects of fibrotic lung injury on critical immune responses to infection remain unknown. In the present study, we show that, like humans with IPF, fibrotic mice infected with MRSA exhibit increased morbidity and mortality compared with uninfected fibrotic mice. We determine that fibrosis conferred a defect in MRSA clearance compared with nonfibrotic mice, resulting from blunted innate immune responses. We show that fibrosis inhibited neutrophil intracellular killing of MRSA through impaired neutrophil elastase release and oxidative radical production. Additionally, we demonstrate that lung macrophages from fibrotic mice have impaired phagocytosis of MRSA. Our study describes potentially novel impairments of antimicrobial responses upon pulmonary fibrosis development, and our findings suggest a possible mechanism for why patients with IPF are at greater risk of morbidity and mortality related to infection.
Helen I. Warheit-Niemi, Summer J. Edwards, Shuvasree SenGupta, Carole A. Parent, Xiaofeng Zhou, David N. O’Dwyer, Bethany B. Moore