The majority of deaths following influenza virus infection result from secondary bacterial superinfection, most commonly caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. Several models have been proposed to explain how primary respiratory viral infections exacerbate secondary bacterial disease, but the mechanistic explanations have beencontradictory. In this study, mice were infected with S. pneumoniae at different days after primary influenza A (X31) virus infection. Our findings show that the induction of type I interferons (IFNs) during a primary nonlethal influenza virus infection is sufficient to promote a deadly S. pneumoniae secondary infection. Moreover, mice deficient in type I interferon receptor (IFNAR knockout [KO] mice) effectively cleared the secondary bacterial infection from their lungs, increased the recruitment of neutrophils, and demonstrated an enhanced innate expression of interleukin-17 (IL-17) relative to wild-type (WT) mice. Lung γδ T cells were responsible for almost all IL-17 production, and their function is compromised during secondary S. pneumoniae infection of WT but not IFNAR KO mice. Adoptive transfer of γδ T cells from IFNAR KO mice reduced the susceptibility to secondary S. pneumoniae infection in the lung of WT mice. Altogether, our study highlightsthe importance of type I interferon as a key master regulator that is exploited by opportunistic pathogens such as S. pneumoniae. Our findings may be utilized to design effective preventive and therapeutic strategies that may be beneficial for coinfected patients during influenza epidemics.
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