Pulmonary A2 strain respiratory syncytial virus infection of BALB/c laboratory mice persisted for up to 7 days after initial infection with peak virus titres being recovered on day 4. Virus antigen within the lungs was found to be restricted essentially to the alveolar regions. Similarly, pulmonary histopathological changes remained confined to the peri-alveolar regions being consistent with mild pneumonia. Infection was found to elicit a pulmonary major histocompatibility complex-restricted cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response which was first detectable 6 days after infection and optimal 7 to 9 days after infection. This local CTL response was preceded by a rapid transient virus-specific lymphocyte transformation response which was detectable only 3 days after intranasal infection. In addition, infection induced rapid interferon production within the lungs which was accompanied by an equally rapid rise in pulmonary natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxic activity. Enhanced NK cell cytotoxicity could be detected after only 1 day post-infection and continued to rise to maximum levels on day 3. This response like the acute CTL response was found to be restricted to the lower respiratory tract. IgG was the first class of virus-specific immunoglobulin to be detected in the lungs of infected animals after experimental infection. However, IgG was not detected until day 10 post-infection, 5 days after the initial decline of virus shedding. Virus-specific IgA although detectable did not appear in the lung until day 24.


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