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Chlamydia trachomatis/HSV-2 vaginal co-infections are seen clinically, suggesting that these sexually transmitted pathogens may interact. We previously established an intravaginal Chlamydia muridarum/HSV-2 super-infection model and observed that chlamydial pre-infection protects mice from a subsequent lethal HSV-2 challenge. However, the mechanism of protection remains unknown. The type I interferon, IFN-β, binds to the type I interferon receptor (IFNR), elicits a host cellular antiviral response and inhibits HSV replication in vitro and in vivo. Previous studies have demonstrated that C. muridarum infection stimulates genital tract (GT) IFN-β production; therefore, we hypothesized that chlamydial pre-infection protects mice from HSV-2 challenge via the IFN-β/IFNR-induced antiviral response. To test this prediction, we quantified IFN-β levels in vaginal swab samples. Detection of IFN-β in C. muridarum singly infected, but not in mock-infected animals, prompted the use of the super-infection model in IFNR knockout (IFNR-/-) mice. We observed that C. muridarum pre-infection reduces HSV-2-induced mortality by 40% in wild-type mice and by 60% IFNR-/-mice. Severity of HSV-2 disease symptoms and viral shedding was also similarly reduced by C. muridarum pre-infection. These data indicate that, while chlamydial infection induces GT production of IFN-β, type I IFN-induced antiviral responses are likely not required for the observed protective effect.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.