Objective—To study the local immune response of
calves to bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV)
infection with emphasis on IgE production and
cytokine gene expression in pulmonary lymph.
Animals—Twelve 6- to 8-week-old Holstein bull
calves. Six similar control calves were mock infected
to obtain control data.
Procedure—Lymphatic cannulation surgery was performed
on 12 calves to create a long-term thoracic
lymph fistula draining to the exterior. Cannulated
calves were exposed to virulent BRSV by aerosol.
Lymph fluid collected daily was assayed for BRSV and
isotype-specific IgE antibody, total IgG, IgA, IgM, and
protein concentrations. Interleukin-4 (IL-4), interleukin-
2 (IL-2), and interferon-γ were semi-quantitated
by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction
(RT-PCR). Cell counts and fluorescence-activated cell
scanner (FACSCAN) analysis of T-cell subsets were
performed on lymph cells.
Results—Calves had clinical signs of respiratory tract
disease during days 5 to 10 after infection and shed
virus. Bovine respiratory syncytial virus-specific IgE in
infected calves was significantly increased over baseline
on day 9 after infection. Mean virus-specific IgE
concentrations strongly correlated with increases in
severity of clinical disease (r = 0.903). Expression of
IL-2, IL-4, and interferon-γ was variably present in
infected and control calves, with IL-4 expression
most consistent during early infection.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Infection with
BRSV was associated with production of BRSV-specific
IgE, and IL-4 message was commonly found in
lymph cells of infected calves. This finding supports
the concept that BRSV-induced pathophysiology
involves a T helper cell type-2 response. Effective
therapeutic and prophylactic strategies could, therefore,
be developed using immunomodulation to shift
the immune response more toward a T helper cell
type-1 response. (Am J Vet Res 2000;61:291–298)