Background Th2 lymphocyte responses are associated with inflammation and disease during allergic responses. Exposure to particular environmental factors during the expression of allergy could result in more pronounced Th2-like immune responses and more severe disease. One factor might be a respiratory virus infection.
Objective The aim of our study was to investigate the influence of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection on the expression of ovalbumin (OVA)-induced allergy in BALB/c mice.
Methods We determined OVA-specific IgE in serum, cytokine profiles and histopathological lesions in lungs of OVA-allergic mice after RSV infection.
Results OVA sensitization and challenge induced OVA-specific IgE in serum, Th2 cytokine mRNA expression, and mononuclear and eosinophilic inflammation in the lungs. RSV inoculation during the challenge period enhanced OVA-induced IL-4 and IL-5 mRNA expression in lung tissue. RSV further enhanced the OVA-induced hypertrophy of mucous cells and eosinophilic infiltration in lung tissue. Surprisingly, RSV infection decreased Th2 cytokine secretion and eosinophilic influx in bronchoalveolar lavage of OVA-allergic mice. Because inactivated RSV did not influence these responses, replication of RSV appeared essential for the modification of OVA-induced Th2 cytokine expression. RSV did not change OVA-specific IgE levels in serum. Furthermore, the RSV-induced IL-12 mRNA expression in lung tissue of OVA-allergic mice was diminished, but IFN-γ mRNA expression was not affected.
Conclusion RSV infection enhanced particular OVA-induced Th2 cytokine mRNA responses and pulmonary lesions in allergic mice and thus aggravated allergic respiratory disease.