Asthma was identified as the most common comorbidity in hospitalized patients during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. We determined using a murine model of allergic asthma whether these mice experienced increased morbidity from pandemic H1N1 (pH1N1) viral infection and whether blockade of interleukin-4 receptor α (IL-4Rα), a critical mediator of Th2 signalling, improved their outcomes.
Male BALB/c mice were intranasally sensitized with house dust mite antigen (Der p 1) for 2 weeks; the mice were then inoculated intranasally with a single dose of pandemic H1N1 (pH1N1). The mice were administered intraperitoneally anti-IL-4Rα through either a prophylactic or a therapeutic treatment strategy.
Infection with pH1N1 of mice sensitized to house dust mite (HDM) led to a 24% loss in weight by day 7 of infection (versus 14% in non-sensitized mice; p < .05). This was accompanied by increased viral load in the airways and a dampened anti-viral host responses to the infection. Treatment of HDM sensitized mice with a monoclonal antibody against IL-4Rα prior to or following pH1N1 infection prevented the excess weight loss, reduced the viral load in the lungs and ameliorated airway eosinophilia and systemic inflammation related to the pH1N1 infection.
Together, these data implicate allergic asthma as a significant risk factor for H1N1-related morbidity and reveal a potential therapeutic role for IL-4Rα signalling blockade in reducing the severity of influenza infection in those with allergic airway disease.