The interaction of Streptococcus pneumoniae with intact human respiratory mucosa in vitro

C Feldman, R Read, A Rutman, P K Jeffery, A Brain, V Lund, T J Mitchell, P W Andrew, G J Boulnois, H C Todd

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31 Citations (Scopus)


The interaction of Streptococcus pneumoniae with human ciliated upper respiratory mucosa was studied in an agar-embedded organ culture of nasal turbinate tissue, which only exposed the intact epithelial surface and its secretion. The ciliary beat frequency, measured along the edge of the organ culture, was slowed by 13% in the presence of S. pneumoniae after 16 h (p less than 0.05) compared with the control, and by 24% after 24 h (p less than 0.01). Light microscopy showed bacteria in a thickened gelatinous layer, which obscured the surface of the organ culture. Transmission and scanning electron microscopy confirmed the association of bacteria with the gelatinous layer above an epithelial surface which showed only minor changes compared to uninfected control organ cultures. Contact between bacteria and normal or damaged epithelial cells was not seen. S. pneumoniae in organ culture developed projections from their surface, which were not present after broth culture. S. pneumoniae interactions with epithelial-derived secretions, the formation of a thickened gelatinous layer, and the effects of bacterial toxins on ciliary motility, may be important during colonization of the respiratory tract.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)576-83
Number of pages8
JournalThe European respiratory journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1992


  • Cilia
  • Epithelium
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Nasal Mucosa
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae


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