Dietary fiber protects against chronic inflammatory diseases by dampening immune responses through short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Here we examined the effect of dietary fiber in viral infection, where the anti-inflammatory properties of SCFAs in principle could prevent protective immunity. Instead, we found that fermentable dietary fiber increased survival of influenza-infected mice through two complementary mechanisms. High-fiber diet (HFD)-fed mice exhibited altered bone marrow hematopoiesis, characterized by enhanced generation of Ly6c− patrolling monocytes, which led to increased numbers of alternatively activated macrophages with a limited capacity to produce the chemokine CXCL1 in the airways. Blunted CXCL1 production reduced neutrophil recruitment to the airways, thus limiting tissue immunopathology during infection. In parallel, diet-derived SCFAs boosted CD8+ T cell effector function by enhancing cellular metabolism. Hence, dietary fermentable fiber and SCFAs set an immune equilibrium, balancing innate and adaptive immunity so as to promote the resolution of influenza infection while preventing immune-associated pathology.
Trompette et al. report that a diet rich in the fermentable fiber inulin and the associated metabolites—short-chain fatty acids—improve the response of mice to influenza infection by dampening deleterious immunopathology caused by neutrophils while enhancing anti-viral CD8+ T cell responses through a boost in T cell metabolism.