TRAIL+ monocytes and monocyte-related cells cause lung damage and thereby increase susceptibility to influenza-Streptococcus pneumoniae coinfection

Streptococcus pneumoniae coinfection is a major cause of influenza-associated mortality; however, the mechanisms underlying pathogenesis or protection remain unclear. Using a clinically relevant mouse model, we identify immune-mediated damage early during coinfection as a new mechanism causing susceptibility. Coinfected CCR2(-/-) mice lacking monocytes and monocyte-derived cells control bacterial invasion better, show reduced epithelial damage and are overall more resistant than wild-type controls. In influenza-infected wild-type lungs, monocytes and monocyte-derived cells are the major cell populations expressing the apoptosis-inducing ligand TRAIL. Accordingly, anti-TRAIL treatment reduces bacterial load and protects against coinfection if administered during viral infection, but not following bacterial exposure. Post-influenza bacterial outgrowth induces a strong proinflammatory cytokine response and massive inflammatory cell infiltrate. Depletion of neutrophils or blockade of TNF-α facilitate bacterial outgrowth, leading to increased mortality, demonstrating that these factors aid bacterial control. We conclude that inflammatory monocytes recruited early, during the viral phase of coinfection, induce TRAIL-mediated lung damage, which facilitates bacterial invasion, while TNF-α and neutrophil responses help control subsequent bacterial outgrowth. We thus identify novel determinants of protection versus pathology in influenza-Streptococcus pneumoniae coinfection.