BACKGROUND: Airway epithelium is the first line of defense against a variety of exposures. Inflammatory processes, hyperresponsiveness and zinc deficiency cause epithelial damage. Zinc is involved in apoptosis and microtubule formation. However, its role in the integrity of bronchial mucosa and cilia is unclear.
METHODS: To assess the effect of zinc on the integrity of the bronchial epithelium, 24 male Rattus norvegicus strain Wistar rats were randomized into four experimental groups: normal zinc diet group without zinc supplementation, normal zinc diet group with 60 ppm zinc supplementation, zinc deficient diet group without zinc supplementation, and zinc deficient diet group with 120 ppm zinc supplementation. Bronchial mucosal integrity was measured with the number of epithelial cells, and the number and length of cilia.
RESULTS: Number of cell in normal zinc diet group was 8.8±1.82, while it was only 8.1±1.08 in zinc deficient diet group (p<0.001). Number of cilia per cell was 4.6±1.08 in normal zinc diet group, compared to 4.0±0.79 in zinc deficient diet group (p<0.001). Ciliary length also differ by 7.68±0.66 μm in normal zinc diet group and only 5.16±0.91 μm in zinc deficient diet group (p<0.001).
CONCLUSION: Zinc supplementation of the normal zinc diet group affected the length of bronchial cilia. Zinc supplementation of the zinc deficient diet group affected the integrity of the bronchial epithelium, which was shown by the number and length of cilia, and the number of epithelial cells.
Influenza virus infections increase susceptibility to secondary bacterial infections, such as pneumococcal pneumonia, resulting in increased morbidity and mortality. Influenza-induced tissue damage is hypothesized to increase susceptibility to Streptococcus pneumoniae infection by increasing adherence to the respiratory epithelium. Using a mouse model of influenza infection followed by S. pneumoniae infection, we found that an influenza infection does not increase the number of pneumococci initially present within the trachea, but does inhibit pneumococcal clearance by 2 hours after infection. To determine whether influenza damage increases pneumococcal adherence, we developed a novel murine tracheal explant system to determine influenza-induced tissue damage and subsequent pneumococcal adherence. Murine tracheas were kept viable ex vivo as shown by microscopic examination of ciliary beating and cellular morphology using continuous media flow for up to 8 days. Tracheas were infected with influenza virus for 0.5–5 days ex vivo, and influenza-induced tissue damage and the early stages of repair to the epithelium were assessed histologically. A prior influenza infection did not increase pneumococcal adherence, even when the basement membrane was maximally denuded or during the repopulation of the basement membrane with undifferentiated epithelial cells. We measured mucociliary clearance in vivo and found it was decreased in influenza-infected mice. Together, our results indicate that exposure of the tracheal basement membrane contributes minimally to pneumococcal adherence. Instead, an influenza infection results in decreased tracheal mucociliary velocity and initial clearance of pneumococci, leading to an increased pneumococcal burden as early as 2 hours after pneumococcal infection.