Neutrophils in respiratory viral infections

Cecilia Johansson*, Freja C.M. Kirsebom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Viral respiratory infections are a common cause of severe disease, especially in infants, people who are immunocompromised, and in the elderly. Neutrophils, an important innate immune cell, infiltrate the lungs rapidly after an inflammatory insult. The most well-characterized effector mechanisms by which neutrophils contribute to host defense are largely extracellular and the involvement of neutrophils in protection from numerous bacterial and fungal infections is well established. However, the role of neutrophils in responses to viruses, which replicate intracellularly, has been less studied. It remains unclear whether and, by which underlying immunological mechanisms, neutrophils contribute to viral control or confer protection against an intracellular pathogen. Furthermore, neutrophils need to be tightly regulated to avoid bystander damage to host tissues. This is especially relevant in the lung where damage to delicate alveolar structures can compromise gas exchange with life-threatening consequences. It is inherently less clear how neutrophils can contribute to host immunity to viruses without causing immunopathology and/or exacerbating disease severity. In this review, we summarize and discuss the current understanding of how neutrophils in the lung direct immune responses to viruses, control viral replication and spread, and cause pathology during respiratory viral infections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-827
Number of pages13
JournalMucosal Immunology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We want to thank the Wellcome Trust (109058/Z/15/Z), CRUK (A27217), the Rosetrees Trust, and the Stoneygate Trust (M370-F1) for support. We also thank Caetano Reis e Sousa, Augusto Varese, Ana Farias, and Christina Michalaki for critically reading the review.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


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