In this study the effect of betamethasone was investigated in guinea pigs that demonstrate airway inflammation and airway hyperresponsiveness after a viral respiratory tract infection with parainfluenza-3 (PI3) virus. Guinea pigs were pretreated with saline or betamethasone 8 mg/kg intraperitoneally twice a day for five consecutive days, starting on day 0 and ending on day 4. On day 1, the guinea pigs were inoculated with either control solution (medium) or PI3 virus. On day 5, airway responsiveness was measured. Furthermore, a blood sample was taken, lungs were lavaged, blood leucocytes were counted, and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cells were counted and differentiated. Accordingly, the activity of the bronchoalveolar cells was measured by lucigenin-amplified chemiluminescence. In virus-infected guinea pigs the total bronchoalveolar cell number was increased by 44% compared with medium-treated guinea pigs. This was mainly due to the increase in macrophages (70%, P < 0.05) and eosinophils (344%, P < 0.001). The increase in both total and differential (macrophages and eosinophils) cell numbers in virus-infected guinea pigs was completely abolished in animals treated with betamethasone. Moreover, betamethasone prevented the decrease in number of blood leucocytes in virus-infected guinea pigs. In contrast, betamethasone did not prevent the increase in airway responsiveness to both histamine (>200%) and methacholine (>100%) after the virus infection. In conclusion, betamethasone treatment prevents virus-induced airway inflammation but not airway hyperresponsiveness in guinea pigs.