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Keywords:

  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1;
  • clinical isolates;
  • cytotoxicity;
  • type III secretion system effector genes

Abstract

Although Pseudomonas aeruginosa is not typically susceptible to azithromycin (AZM) in in vitro tests, AZM improves the clinical outcome in patients with chronic respiratory infections, in which both the modulation of the host immune system and of bacterial virulence by AZM are thought to play an important role. However, there is currently little direct evidence showing the impact of bacteria pretreated with AZM on epithelial cells, which represents the first barrier to infecting P. aeruginosa. In this study, we pretreated P. aeruginosa with AZM and subsequently infected human bronchial epithelial cells (HBEs) in the absence of AZM. The results showed that AZM-pretreated P. aeruginosa (PAO1 and six different clinical isolates) significantly stimulated HBE cells to release IL-8, a crucial pro-inflammatory cytokine. This effect was not observed in a P. aeruginosa PAO1 mutant strain unable to produce the type III secretion system effector gene pcrV (strain PW4017). Our results suggest that AZM-pretreated P. aeruginosa could indirectly exacerbate pro-inflammation by inducing IL-8 production in HBEs.