Viruses constitute a constant and renewed threat to humans. Not only do viruses cause disease directly due to their tissue tropism and pathogenicity, but they have also been linked to autoimmunity. In their study in this issue of the JCI, Kang et al. show that exposure to cigarette smoke induces alterations in the innate immune response to viral infection and that these changes hasten alveolar destruction characteristic of emphysema in mice (see the related beginning on page 2771). This study builds on evidence that patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have clinical exacerbations associated with viral or bacterial infections, which lead to worsened lung function and increased mortality. This novel paradigm may aid related genetic, biomarker, and therapeutic developments and provides important insights into the pathogenesis of emphysematous lung destruction.
Rubin M. Tuder, Jeong H. Yun