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Early innate and adaptive immune perturbations determine long-term severity of chronic virus and Mycobacterium tuberculosis coinfection

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Chronic viral infections increase severity of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) coinfection. Here, we examined how chronic viral infections alter the pulmonary microenvironment to foster coinfection and worsen disease severity. We developed a coordinated system of chronic virus and Mtb infection that induced central clinical manifestations of coinfection, including increased Mtb burden, extra-pulmonary dissemination, and heightened mortality. These disease states were not due to chronic virus-induced immunosuppression or exhaustion; rather, increased amounts of the cytokine TNFα initially arrested pulmonary Mtb growth, impeding dendritic cell mediated antigen transportation to the lymph node and subverting immune-surveillance, allowing bacterial sanctuary. The cryptic Mtb replication delayed CD4 T cell priming, redirecting T helper (Th) 1 toward Th17 differentiation and increasing pulmonary neutrophilia, which diminished long-term survival. Temporally restoring CD4 T cell induction overcame these diverse disease sequelae to enhance Mtb control. Thus, Mtb co-opts TNFα from the chronic inflammatory environment to subvert immune-surveillance, avert early immune function, and foster long-term coinfection.

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