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Front. Immunol. | doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.00323

Induction and subversion of human protective immunity: contrasting influenza and respiratory syncytial virus

  • 1Imperial College London, United Kingdom

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza are among the most important causes of severe respiratory disease worldwide. Despite the clinical need, barriers to developing reliably effective vaccines against these viruses have remained firmly in place for decades. Overcoming these hurdles requires better understanding of human immunity and the strategies by which these pathogens evade it.
Although superficially similar, the virology and host response to RSV and influenza are strikingly distinct. Influenza induces robust strain-specific immunity following natural infection, although protection by current vaccines is short-lived. In contrast, even strain-specific protection is incomplete after RSV and there are currently no licensed RSV vaccines. Although animal models have been critical for developing a fundamental understanding of antiviral immunity, extrapolating to human disease has been problematic. It is only with recent translational advances (such as controlled human infection models and high-dimensional technologies) that the mechanisms responsible for differences in protection against RSV compared to influenza have begun to be elucidated in the human context.
Influenza infection elicits high-affinity IgA in the respiratory tract and virus-specific IgG, which correlates with protection. Long-lived influenza-specific T cells have also been shown to ameliorate disease. This robust immunity promotes rapid emergence of antigenic variants leading to immune escape. RSV differs markedly, as reinfection with similar strains occurs despite natural infection inducing high levels of antibody against conserved antigens. The immunomodulatory mechanisms of RSV are thus highly effective in inhibiting long-term protection, with disturbance of type I interferon (IFN) signaling, antigen presentation and chemokine-induced inflammation possibly all contributing. These lead to widespread effects on adaptive immunity with impaired B cell memory and reduced T cell generation and functionality.
Here, we discuss the differences in clinical outcome and immune response following influenza and RSV. Specifically, we focus on differences in their recognition by innate immunity; the strategies used by each virus to evade these early immune responses; and effects across the innate-adaptive interface that may prevent long-lived memory generation. Thus, by comparing these globally important pathogens, we highlight mechanisms by which optimal antiviral immunity may be better induced and discuss the potential for these insights to inform novel vaccines.

Keywords: influenza, respiratory disease, CD4+ T cell, B cell, innate immunity, TLR, RLR, RSV

Received: 23 Dec 2017; Accepted: 06 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Steven Varga, University of Iowa, United States

Reviewed by:

Jie Sun, Mayo Clinic Minnesota, United States
Tara M. Strutt, University of Central Florida, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Ascough, Paterson and Chiu. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Christopher Chiu, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom,