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Rhinoviruses (RVs), which are the most common cause of virally induced asthma exacerbations, account for much of the burden of asthma in terms of morbidity, mortality, and associated cost. Interleukin-25 (IL-25) activates type 2–driven inflammation and is therefore potentially important in virally induced asthma exacerbations. To investigate this, we examined whether RV-induced IL-25 could contribute to asthma exacerbations. RV-infected cultured asthmatic bronchial epithelial cells exhibited a heightened intrinsic capacity for IL-25 expression, which correlated with donor atopic status. In vivo human IL-25 expression was greater in asthmatics at baseline and during experimental RV infection. In addition, in mice, RV infection induced IL-25 expression and augmented allergen-induced IL-25. Blockade of the IL-25 receptor reduced many RV-induced exacerbation-specific responses including type 2 cytokine expression, mucus production, and recruitment of eosinophils, neutrophils, basophils, and T and non-T type 2 cells. Therefore, asthmatic epithelial cells have an increased intrinsic capacity for expression of a pro–type 2 cytokine in response to a viral infection, and IL-25 is a key mediator of RV-induced exacerbations of pulmonary inflammation.
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