Exposure to welding fumes and lower airway infection with Streptococcus pneumoniae

Reetika Suri, Jimstan Periselneris, Sophie Lanone, Patti C. Zeidler-Erdely, Geoffrey Melton, Keith T. Palmer, Pascal Andujar, James M. Antonini, Vanessa Cohignac, Aaron Erdely, Ricardo J. Jose, Ian Mudway, Jeremy Brown, Jonathan Grigg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Welders are at increased risk of pneumococcal pneumonia. The mechanism for this association is not known. The capacity of pneumococci to adhere to and infect lower airway cells is mediated by host-expressed platelet-activating factor receptor (PAFR). 

Objective: We sought to assess the effect of mild steel welding fumes (MS-WF) on PAFR-dependent pneumococcal adhesion and infection to human airway cells invitro and on pneumococcal airway infection in a mouse model. 

Methods: The oxidative potential of MS-WF was assessed by their capacity to reduce antioxidants invitro. Pneumococcal adhesion and infection of A549, BEAS-2B, and primary human bronchial airway cells were assessed by means of quantitative bacterial culture and expressed as colony-forming units (CFU). After intranasal instillation of MS-WF, mice were infected with Streptococcus pneumoniae, and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) and lung CFU values were determined. PAFR protein levels were assessed by using immunofluorescence and immunohistochemistry, and PAFR mRNA expression was assessed by using quantitative PCR. PAFR was blocked by CV-3988, and oxidative stress was attenuated by N-acetylcysteine. 

Results: MS-WF exhibited high oxidative potential. In A549 and BEAS-2B cells MS-WF increased pneumococcal adhesion and infection and PAFR protein expression. Both CV-3988 and N-acetylcysteine reduced MS-WF-stimulated pneumococcal adhesion and infection of airway cells. MS-WF increased mouse lung PAFR mRNA expression and increased BALF and lung pneumococcal CFU values. In MS-WF-exposed mice CV-3988 reduced BALF CFU values. 

Conclusions: Hypersusceptibility of welders to pneumococcal pneumonia is in part mediated by the capacity of welding fumes to increase PAFR-dependent pneumococcal adhesion and infection of lower airway cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527–534.e7
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number2
Early online date12 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


  • Bacterial adhesion and infection
  • Occupational disease
  • Platelet-activating factor receptor
  • Pneumonia
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Welding fumes


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