The lumen-dwelling protozoan Giardia is an important parasitic cause of diarrheal disease worldwide. Infection can persist over extended periods with minimal intestinal inflammation, suggesting that Giardia may attenuate host responses to ensure its survival, although clearance eventually occurs in most cases. IL-10 is an anti-inflammatory regulator critical for intestinal homeostasis and controlling host responses to bacterial exposure, yet its potential role in coordinating antiprotozoal host defense in the intestine is not known. In this study, we found that murine infection with the natural enteric pathogen Giardia muris induced a transient IL-10 response after 2–4 wk at the primary site of infection in the upper small intestine, but parasite colonization and eradication were not affected by the absence of the cytokine in gene-targeted mice. However, IL-10 was critical for controlling infection-associated immunological sequelae in the colon because severe and persistent diarrhea and colitis were observed in IL-10–deficient mice within 1–2 wk postinfection but not in uninfected littermate controls. Inflammation was characterized by epithelial hyperplasia, neutrophil and macrophage expansion, and Th1 induction and could be prevented by blockade of IL-12/IL-23 p40 but not depletion of CD11c+ dendritic cells. Furthermore, the intestinal microbiota underwent characteristic shifts in composition and was required for disease because antibiotics and loss of TLR signaling in MyD88-deficient mice protected against colitis. Together, our data suggest that transient infection by a luminal and seemingly noninflammatory pathogen can trigger sustained colitis in genetically susceptible hosts, which has broader implications for understanding postinfectious syndromes and other chronic intestinal inflammatory conditions.
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