Viral respiratory tract infections are known triggers of asthma exacerbations in both adults and children. The current standard of care, inhaled CS (corticosteroids) and LABAs (long-acting β2-adrenoceptor agonists), fails to prevent the loss of control that manifests as an exacerbation. In order to better understand the mechanisms underlying viral asthma exacerbations we established an in vivo model using the clinically relevant aeroallergen HDM (house dust mite) and the viral mimetic/TLR3 (Toll-like receptor 3) agonist poly(I:C). Poly(I:C) alone induced a similar neutrophilic inflammatory profile in the BAL (bronchoalveolar lavage) to that of HRV1b (human rhinovirus 1b) alone, accompanied by both elevated BAL KC (keratinocyte-derived chemokine) and IL-1β (interleukin-1β). When mice allergic to HDM were also challenged with poly(I:C) the neutrophilic inflammatory profile was exacerbated. Increased CD8+ T-cell numbers, increased CD4+ and CD8+ cell activation and elevated KC and IL-1β were observed. No increases in Th2 cytokines or the eosinophil chemoattractant CCL11 [chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 11], above those induced by HDM alone, were observed. The poly(I:C)-exacerbated neutrophilia did not translate into changes in AHR (airways hyper-responsiveness), indicating that in this model inflammation and AHR are two mechanistically independent events. To test the clinical relevance of this model CS sensitivity was assessed using prednisone, a synthetic oral CS used to manage exacerbations in asthmatic patients already on maximal doses of inhaled CS. The increased neutrophils, and accompanying cytokines/chemokines KC and IL-1β induced by poly(I:C) challenge of HDM-sensitized and challenged mice were insensitive to oral prednisone therapy. In summary we have described a CS-resistant mouse model mimicking the key aspects of viral asthma exacerbation using the clinically relevant aeroallergen HDM and the viral mimic poly(I:C). This model may provide better understanding of disease mechanisms underlying viral exacerbations and could be used to build early confidence in novel therapeutic axes targeting viral asthma exacerbations in Th2 asthmatics.

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