Reduced clearance of respiratory syncytial virus infection in a preterm lamb model
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes significant respiratory disease in children worldwide. For the study of severe RSV disease seen in preterm infants, a suitable animal model is lacking. The novel hypothesis of this study was that preterm lambs are susceptible to bovine RSV (bRSV) infection, an analogous pneumovirus with ruminant host specificity, and that there would be age-dependent differences in select RSV disease parameters. During RSV infection, preterm lambs had elevated temperatures and respiration rates with mild anorexia and cough compared to controls. Gross lesions included multifocal consolidation and atelectasis with foci of hyperinflation. Microscopic lesions included multifocal alveolar septal thickening and bronchiolitis. Immunohistochemistry localized the RSV antigen to all layers of bronchiolar epithelium from a few basal cells to numerous sloughing epithelia. A few mononuclear cells were also immunoreactive. To assess for age-dependent differences in RSV infection, neonatal lambs were infected similarly to the preterm lambs or with a high-titer viral inoculum. Using morphometry at day 7 of infection, preterm lambs had significantly more cellular immunoreactivity for RSV antigen (P <0.05) and syncytial cell formation (P <0.05) than either group of neonatal lambs. This work suggests that perinatal RSV clearance is age-dependent, which may explain the severity of RSV infection in preterm infants. The preterm lamb model is useful for assessing age-dependent mechanisms of severe RSV infection.
This article is from Microbes and Infection 6, no. 14 (November 2004): 1312–1319, doi:10.1016/j.micinf.2004.08.006.