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© 2017 Fitzpatrick et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Pneumonia due to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in infants particularly following lower respiratory tract viral infections such as Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). However, the mechanisms by which co-infection of infants by MRSA and RSV cause increased lung pathology are unknown. Because the infant immune system is qualitatively and quantitatively different from adults we developed a model of infant MRSA pneumonia which will allow us to investigate the effects of RSV co-infection on disease severity. We infected neonatal and adult mice with increasing doses of MRSA and demonstrate that neonatal mice have delayed kinetics in clearing the bacteria in comparison to adult mice. There were differences in recruitment of immune cells into the lung following infection. Adult mice exhibited an increase in neutrophil recruitment that coincided with reduced bacterial titers followed by an increase in macrophages. Neonatal mice, however, exhibited an early increase in neutrophils that did not persist despite continued presence of the bacteria. Unlike the adult mice, neonatal mice failed to exhibit an increase in macrophages. Neonates exhibited a decrease in phagocytosis of MRSA suggesting that the decrease in clearance was partially due to deficient phagocytosis of the bacteria. Both neonates and adults responded with an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines following infection. However, in contrast to the adult mice, neonates did not express constitutive levels of the anti-microbial peptide Reg3γ in the lung. Infection of neonates did not stimulate expression of the co-stimulatory molecule CD86 by dendritic cells and neonates exhibited a diminished T cell response compared to adult mice. Overall, we have developed a neonatal model of MRSA pneumonia that displays a similar delay in bacterial clearance as is observed in the neonatal intensive care unit and will be useful for performing co-infection studies.

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