Scrub typhus is a neglected, but important, tropical disease, which puts one-third of the world's population at risk. The disease is caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi, an obligately intracellular Gram-negative bacterium. Dysregulation in immune responses is known to contribute to disease pathogenesis; however, the nature and molecular basis of immune alterations are poorly defined. This study made use of a newly developed murine model of severe scrub typhus and focused on innate regulators and vascular growth factors in O. tsutsugamushi-infected liver, lungs and spleen. We found no activation or even reduction in base-line expression for multiple molecules (IL-7, IL-4, IL-13, GATA3, ROR-γt, and CXCL12) at 2, 6 and 10 days post-infection. This selective impairment in type 2-related immune responses correlated with a significant activation of the genes for IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10, TNF-α, IFN-γ, as well as CXCR3- and CXCR1-related chemokines in inflamed tissues. The elevated angiopoietin (Ang)-2 expression and Ang-2/Ang-1 ratios suggested excessive inflammation and the loss of endothelial integrity. These alterations, together with extensive recruitment of myeloperoxidase (MPO)-expressing neutrophils and the influx of CD3+ T cells, contributed to acute tissue damage and animal death. This is the first report of selective alterations in a panel of immune regulators during early O. tsutsugamushi infection in intravenously inoculated C57BL/6 mice. Our findings shed new light on the pathogenic mechanisms associated with severe scrub typhus and suggest potential targets for therapeutic investigation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases