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Influence of respiratory syncytial virus infection on cytokine and inflammatory responses in allergic mice


Marion Barends, Research Laboratory for Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, PO Box 1, 3720 BA Bilthoven, the Netherlands. E-mail:


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.