There are several potential mechanisms by which viral respiratory tract infections in childhood might trigger the onset of sensitization to allergens and asthma. To study these potential mechanisms, researchers have developed a number of animal models. In this paper, results of animal experiments are discussed under three headings: (i) chronic sequelae of acute viral infections; (ii) viral infections and sensitization to aeroallergens; and (iii) persistent viral infections. The use of animal models to study the role of viral infections in the induction of allergic sensitization and airway responsiveness has provided intriguing new insights that may be relevant to the pathogenesis of human disease.
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