• Age-related susceptibility to Streptococcus pyogenes infection in mice: underlying immune dysfunction and strategy to enhance immunity.

      Goldmann, Oliver; Lehne, Sabine; Medina, Eva; Infection Immunology Research Group, Department of Microbial Pathogenesis, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Inhoffenstrasse 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2010-04)
      Epidemiological studies have shown that the elderly are at higher risk of severe Streptococcus pyogenes infections. In this study, we used a mouse model that displays the age-related loss of resistance to S. pyogenes infection seen in humans to investigate the impaired immune mechanism underlying the age-associated susceptibility to this pathogen. Young (2-3 months old) and aged (>20 months old) BALB/c mice were subcutaneously or intravenously inoculated with S. pyogenes and their capacity to control infection was compared. Aged mice showed faster progression of disease, earlier morbidity, and increased mortality when compared with young animals. Since macrophages are critical for host defence against S. pyogenes, we investigated whether susceptibility of aged mice may be due to an age-associated decline in the functionality of these cells. Our results showed that macrophages from aged mice were as capable as those from young animals to uptake and kill S. pyogenes, but the number of resident tissue macrophages was significantly reduced in the aged host. Treatment of aged mice with macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF) significantly increased the number of resident macrophages and improved their response to infection. Our results indicate that treatment with M-CSF can restore, at least in part, the mechanisms affected by immunosenescence and enhance the natural resistance of aged mice to infection with S. pyogenes.