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Pollen exposure weakens innate defense against respiratory viruses.

Journal article
Authors Stefanie Gilles
Cornelia Blume
Maria Wimmer
Athanasios Damialis
Laura Meulenbroek
Mehmet Gökkaya
Carolin Bergougnan
Selina Eisenbart
Nicklas Sundell
Magnus Lindh
Lars-Magnus Andersson
Åslög Dahl
Adam Chaker
Franziska Häring
Sabrina Wagner
Avidan U Neumann
Cezmi A Akdis
Johan Garssen
Johan Westin
Belinda Vanˊt Land
Donna E Davies
Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann
Published in Allergy
ISSN 1398-9995
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Infectious Medicine
Language en
Subject categories Clinical Medicine


Hundreds of plant species release their pollen into the air every year during early spring. During that period, pollen allergic as well as non-allergic patients frequently present to doctors with severe respiratory tract infections.To assess whether pollen may interfere with antiviral immunity.We combined data from real life human exposure cohorts, a mouse model and human cell culture to test our hypothesis.Pollen significantly diminished interferon-λ and pro-inflammatory chemokine responses of airway epithelia to rhinovirus and viral mimics and decreased nuclear translocation of interferon regulatory factors. In mice infected with respiratory syncytial virus, co-exposure to pollen caused attenuated antiviral gene expression and increased pulmonary viral titers. In non-allergic human volunteers, nasal symptoms were positively correlated with airborne birch pollen abundance, and nasal birch pollen challenge led to down-regulation of type I and -III interferons in nasal mucosa. In a large patient cohort, numbers of rhinovirus-positive cases were correlated with airborne birch pollen concentrations.The ability of pollen to suppress innate antiviral immunity, independent of allergy, suggests that high-risk population groups should avoid extensive outdoor activities when pollen and respiratory virus seasons coincide.

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