Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the major cause of lower respiratory tract infections in infants and is characterized by pulmonary infiltration of B cells in fatal cases. We analyzed the B cell compartment in human newborns and identified a population of neonatal regulatory B lymphocytes (nBreg cells) that produced interleukin 10 (IL-10) in response to RSV infection. The polyreactive B cell receptor of nBreg cells interacted with RSV protein F and induced upregulation of chemokine receptor CX3CR1. CX3CR1 interacted with RSV glycoprotein G, leading to nBreg cell infection and IL-10 production that dampened T helper 1 (Th1) cytokine production. In the respiratory tract of neonates with severe RSV-induced acute bronchiolitis, RSV-infected nBreg cell frequencies correlated with increased viral load and decreased blood memory Th1 cell frequencies. Thus, the frequency of nBreg cells is predictive of the severity of acute bronchiolitis disease and nBreg cell activity may constitute an early-life host response that favors microbial pathogenesis.
RSV infection leads to respiratory distress in very young children whereas it is asymptomic later in life. Zhivaki et al. found a neonatal-specific regulatory B cell that is recruited in the respiratory tract, gets infected by the virus, and correlates with high viral load and disease severity.