Infection with the infant respiratory syncytial virus results in metabolic reprogramming of airway epithelial cells

Infection with the respiratory syncytial Virus in the infant years results in metabolic changes in epithelial cells that line the airway, according to a Northwestern Medicine study published in the journal Viruses.

This is a possible explanation for why childhood infections from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are linked to dramatically higher rates of asthma and other wheezing diseases According to Sergejs Berdnikovs, PhD, associate professor of Medicine in the division of Allergy and Immunology and co-senior author of the study.

We think these metabolic changes could be the biggest elephant that’s been hidden, which could explain this connection.”

Sergejs Berdnikovs, PhD, co-author of the study.

Tina Hartert, MD, MPH, the Lulu H. Owen Chair in Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine was also a co-author of the study.

RSV is a seasonal disease that affects the respiratory epithelium (lining of the respiratory tract). This illness is common in infants. Although it has been established that RSV infection in children may cause asthma, no causal mechanism has been identified.

Berdnikovs and his Vanderbilt collaborators collected epithelial cell samples from children aged 2 to 3 years during the current study. To determine the differences in the samples, investigators collected samples from children with and without RSV infection and performed metabolic screening on both.

The researchers discovered that epithelial cells from children who were infected with RSV during the first year of life consumed significantly more glucose than normal cells. Although this consumption increase was not always reflected in making cell energy, it wasn’t wasted: The extra glucose was used to make the building blocks needed for other enzymatic reactions.

This phenomena occurs in normal cells , but it was happening in a greater extent in cells that had been previously infected which is a reflection of the host’s metabolic environment in which epithelial cells matured, according to Berdnikovs.

“Our airways and lungs continue to develop after birth, so during this time, the cells are required to adjust their glucose intake to meet the burden of infection,” Berdnikovs said. It could be part the development process.

These metabolically “hyperactive” epithelial cells may result in the development of asthma in children because they disrupt the normal function of the airway epithelium, which functions as a barrier that separates and protects the body from the harmful substances found in the air.

Berdnikovs and Hartert said they are now planning a cohort study, which will follow children from birth to measure metabolic changes in the airway epithelium before and after RSV infection, assisting to determine the temporal cause-and-effect relationship.

Journal reference:

Connelly, A.R. et. as. (2021). Metabolic Reprogramming Nasal Airway Epithelial cells Following Infant Respiratory Syncytial Virus Disease. Viruses.

Content Source:

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

Related Articles