Influenza-Flu: Study Shows That Targeting Nasal Bacteria Helps To Block Flu Transmission
: Researchers from St Jude Children's Research Hospital have found in a study that eradicating certain types of nasal bacteria actually helps to cut down the risk of contracting viral influenza strains.
Dr Stacey Schultz-Cherry, Ph.D., and Dr Jason Rosch, Ph.D., both of
St. Jude Infectious Diseases, led the respiratory bacteria research.
Credit: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
The study findings were published in the journal: mSystems
Typically antibiotics won't help one to recover from the flu, but an antibiotic ointment helped the research scientists to identify a possible strategy for slowing influenza infections.
The study team found that a direct interaction between Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) bacteria and influenza A, promoted airborne transmission of the virus in ferrets.
The team reported that influenza A survived longer in the environment and remained infectious when bound to the bacteria in the nasal passages of the nose.
However when an antibiotic ointment was applied to the nasal passages of flu-infected ferrets, it selectively reduced levels of S. pneumoniae and other common nasal bacterium in the ferrets and blocked airborne transmission of flu to uninfected animals.
Interestingly flu transmission was restored when pneumococcus was reintroduced into the ferrets' noses.
Dr Jason Rosch, Ph.D., of the St. Jude Department of Infectious Diseases told Thailand Medical News, "Although antibiotics have no effect on the flu virus or flu symptoms, this study suggests that targeting common respiratory bacteria, possibly with vaccines, may offer a novel way to slow flu infections."
Dr Rosch and and Dr Stacey Schultz-Cherry, Ph.D., of Infectious Diseases, led the research and are corresponding authors.
It was found that flu infections, particularly when complicated by secondary bacterial infections, are a leading cause of illness and death worldwide.
The study team said, "Until recently the role of direct interaction between the virus and bacteria in infectious disease biology and disease transmission has been underappreciated.”
The bacteria S. pneumoniae is the most common cause of sepsis, pneumonia, meningitis and middle ear infections in young children. Previous St. Jude studies showed that binding influenza A enhanced the spread of the bacteria in mice.
These study findings suggest that, unlike the enteric microflora, which enhances viral infectivity of the same host, the respiratory tract microflora of the infected host is primarily operative in viral infectivity of the subsequent host. In household transmission studies of Influenza A virus( IAV), S. pneumoniae or closely related streptococcal species were identified in approximately 95% of
samples collected from both the child index cases and the household contacts who developed influenza.
These data suggest that modulating donor respiratory flora via antibiotic exposure or vaccination may profoundly affect IAV transmission. It should be stressed that topical antibiotics were given prior to IAV challenge in the study study, with no impact on disease severity in the donor animals. Even in the light of this limitation, targeting bacterially mediated transmission may represent a novel strategy of IAV infection control that could be explored.
Other past studies of flu transmission in households also have suggested that the respiratory microbiome of flu patients may influence viral spread.
The team added, "Data in this study suggest that modulating the makeup of the respiratory microbiome, possibly through vaccination, may profoundly affect flu transmission.”
Dr Rosch and his colleagues have already developed an experimental vaccine to block pneumococcal transmission.
The study team says that further research is warranted to determine if the findings extend to other viral-bacterial interactions, including the virus that causes COVID-19.
But the team stressed, “These data suggest that bacterial co-infection may be an underappreciated aspect of IAV transmission dynamics.”
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