Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Viruses and bacteria colonize hosts by invading epithelial barriers. Recent studies have shown that interactions between the microbiota, pathogens and the host can potentiate infection through poorly understood mechanisms. Here, we investigated whether diverse bacterial species could modulate virus internalization into host cells, often a rate-limiting step in establishing infections. Lentiviral pseudoviruses expressing influenza, measles, Ebola, Lassa or vesicular stomatitis virus envelope glycoproteins enabled us to study entry of viruses that exploit diverse internalization pathways. Salmonella Typhimurium, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa significantly increased viral uptake, even at low bacterial frequencies. This did not require bacterial contact with or invasion of host cells. Studies determined that the bacterial antigen responsible for this pro-viral activity was the Toll-Like Receptor 5 (TLR5) agonist flagellin. Exposure to flagellin increased virus attachment to epithelial cells in a temperature-dependent manner via TLR5-dependent activation of NF-ΚB. Importantly, this phenotype was both long lasting and detectable at low multiplicities of infection. Flagellin is shed from bacteria and our studies uncover a new bystander role for this protein in regulating virus entry. This highlights a new aspect of viral-bacterial interplay with significant implications for our understanding of polymicrobial-associated pathogenesis.

Original publication




Journal article


Scientific reports

Publication Date





Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.


Lung, Epithelial Cells, Humans, Bacterial Infections, Virus Diseases, Disease Susceptibility, Flagellin, RNA, Small Interfering, Antigens, Bacterial, Signal Transduction, Permeability, Toll-Like Receptor 5, Transcription Factor RelA, Virus Internalization, Gene Knockdown Techniques, HEK293 Cells, Coinfection, A549 Cells, Host Microbial Interactions