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Toll-Like Receptor-Induced Immune Responses During Early Childhood and Their Associations With Clinical Outcomes Following Acute Illness Among Infants in Sub-Saharan Africa

Severely ill children in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) experience high rates of mortality from a broad range of infectious diseases, with the risk of infection-related death compounded by co-existing undernutrition. How undernutrition and acute illness impact immune responses in young children in LMICs remains understudied, and it is unclear what aspects of immunity are compromised in this highly vulnerable population. To address this knowledge gap, we profiled longitudinal whole blood cytokine responses to Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands among severely ill children (n=63; 2-23 months old) with varied nutritional backgrounds, enrolled in the CHAIN Network cohort from Kampala, Uganda, and Kilifi, Kenya, and compared these responses to similar-aged well children in local communities (n=41). Cytokine responses to ligands for TLR-4 and TLR-7/8, as well as Staphylococcus enterotoxin B (SEB), demonstrated transient impairment in T cell function among acutely ill children, whereas innate cytokine responses were exaggerated during both acute illness and following clinical recovery. Nutritional status was associated with the magnitude of cytokine responses in all stimulated conditions. Among children who died following hospital discharge or required hospital re-admission, exaggerated production of interleukin-7 (IL-7) to all stimulation conditions, as well as leukopenia with reduced lymphocyte and monocyte counts, were observed. Overall, our findings demonstrate exaggerated innate immune responses to pathogen-associated molecules among acutely ill young children that persist during recovery. Heightened innate immune responses to TLR ligands may contribute to chronic systemic inflammation and dysregulated responses to subsequent infectious challenges. Further delineating mechanisms of innate immune dysregulation in this population should be prioritized to identify novel interventions that promote immune homeostasis and improve outcomes.
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Plasma calprotectin as a biomarker of mortality at antiretroviral treatment initiation in advanced HIV – pilot study

Background: In advanced HIV, significant mortality occurs soon after starting antiretroviral treatment (ART) in low- and middle-incomes countries. Calprotectin is a biomarker of innate response to infection and inflammatory conditions. We examined the association between plasma calprotectin collected before ART treatment and mortality among individuals with advanced HIV. Methods: We conducted a pilot case-cohort study among HIV infected adults and adolescents over 13 years old with CD4+ <100/mm3 at ART initiation at two Kenyan sites. Participants received three factorial randomised interventions in addition to ART within the REALITY trial (ISRCTN43622374). Calprotectin collected at baseline (before ART) and after 4 weeks of treatment was measured in archived plasma of those who died within 24 weeks (cases) and randomly selected participants who survived (non-cases). Association with mortality was assessed using Cox proportional hazards models with inverse sampling probability weights and adjusted for age, sex, site, BMI, viral load, randomised treatments, and clustered by CD4+ count (0-24, 25-49, and 50-99 cells/mm3). Results: Baseline median (IQR) plasma calprotectin was 6.82 (2.65-12.5) microg/ml in cases (n=39) and 5.01 (1.92-11.5) microg/ml in non-cases (n=58). Baseline calprotectin was associated with age, neutrophil count and the presence of cough, but not other measured indicators of infection. In adjusted multivariable models, baseline calprotectin was associated with subsequent mortality: HR 1.64 (95% CI 1.11 - 2.42) and HR 2.77 (95% CI 1.58 - 4.88) for deaths during the first twenty-four and four weeks respectively. Calprotectin levels fell between baseline and 4 weeks among both cases and non-cases irrespective of randomised interventions. Conclusions: Among individuals with advanced HIV starting ART in Kenya, plasma calprotectin may have potential as a biomarker of early mortality. Validation in larger studies, comparison with other biomarkers and investigation of the sources of infection and inflammation are warranted.
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Author Correction: Airway response to respiratory syncytial virus has incidental antibacterial effects

An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.
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Undernutrition, Host Immunity and Vulnerability to Infection Among Young Children

ABSTRACT Pediatr Infect Dis J Gwela, A., Mupere, E., Berkley, J. A., Lancioni, C. Pages:e175-e177, Volume:38, Edition:7/16/2019, Date,Aug Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31306401 Notes:Gwela, Agnes|Mupere, Ezekiel|Berkley, James A|Lancioni, Christina|eng|MR/M007367/1/MRC_/Medical Research Council/United Kingdom|Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t|Review|2019/07/16 06:00|Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2019 Aug;38(8):e175-e177. doi: 10.1097/INF.0000000000002363. ISBN: 1532-0987 (Electronic)|0891-3668 (Linking) Permanent ID: Accession Number: 31306401 Author Address: From the The Childhood […]
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Airway response to respiratory syncytial virus has incidental antibacterial effects

RSV infection is typically associated with secondary bacterial infection. We hypothesise that the local airway immune response to RSV has incidental antibacterial effects. Using coordinated proteomics and metagenomics analysis we simultaneously analysed the microbiota and proteomes of the upper airway and determined direct antibacterial activity in airway secretions of RSV-infected children. Here, we report that the airway abundance of Streptococcus was higher in samples collected at the time of RSV infection compared with samples collected one month later. RSV infection is associated with neutrophil influx into the airway and degranulation and is marked by overexpression of proteins with known antibacterial activity including BPI, EPX, MPO and AZU1. Airway secretions of children infected with RSV, have significantly greater antibacterial activity compared to RSV-negative controls. This RSV-associated, neutrophil-mediated antibacterial response in the airway appears to act as a regulatory mechanism that modulates bacterial growth in the airways of RSV-infected children.
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Biomarkers of post-discharge mortality among children with complicated severe acute malnutrition

High mortality after discharge from hospital following acute illness has been observed among children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). However, mechanisms that may be amenable to intervention to reduce risk are unknown. We performed a nested case-control study among HIV-uninfected children aged 2-59 months treated for complicated SAM according to WHO recommendations at four Kenyan hospitals. Blood was drawn from 1778 children when clinically judged stable before discharge from hospital. Cases were children who died within 60 days. Controls were randomly selected children who survived for one year without readmission to hospital. Untargeted proteomics, total protein, cytokines and chemokines, and leptin were assayed in plasma and corresponding biological processes determined. Among 121 cases and 120 controls, increased levels of calprotectin, von Willebrand factor, angiotensinogen, IL8, IL15, IP10, TNFalpha, and decreased levels of leptin, heparin cofactor 2, and serum paraoxonase were associated with mortality after adjusting for possible confounders. Acute phase responses, cellular responses to lipopolysaccharide, neutrophil responses to bacteria, and endothelial responses were enriched among cases. Among apparently clinically stable children with SAM, a sepsis-like profile is associated with subsequent death. This may be due to ongoing bacterial infection, translocated bacterial products or deranged immune response during nutritional recovery.
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The plasma concentration of the B cell activating factor is increased in children with acute malaria

Malaria-specific antibody responses in children often appear to be short-lived but the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are not well understood. In this study, we investigated the relationship between the B-cell activating factor (BAFF) and its receptors expressed on B cells with antibody responses during and after acute malaria in children. Our results demonstrate that BAFF plasma levels increased during acute malarial disease and reflected disease severity. The expression profiles for BAFF receptors on B cells agreed with rapid activation and differentiation of a proportion of B cells to plasma cells. However, BAFF receptor (BAFF-R) expression was reduced on all peripheral blood B cells during acute infection, but those children with the highest level of BAFF-R expression on B cells maintained schizont-specific immunoglobin G (IgG) over a period of 4 months, indicating that dysregulation of BAFF-R expression on B cells may contribute to short-lived antibody responses to malarial antigens in children. In summary, this study suggests a potential role for BAFF during malaria disease, both as a marker for disease severity and in shaping the differentiation pattern of antigen-specific B cells.
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