Porcine reproductive and respiratory virus (PRRSV) primarily infects and destroys alveolar macrophages of the pig. The aim of the present study was to characterize the changes of leukocyte populations in the broncho-alveolar lavage fluid (BALF) of PRRSV-infected pigs. Piglets were inoculated intranasally with PRRSV strain LV ter Huurne. On various days post-infection the piglets were sacrificed and the lungs removed, washed semi-quantitatively and analysed by flow cytometry. The total number of recovered BALF cells increased approximately 10 times between day 10 and day 21 of infection and decreased thereafter. The number of small low-autofluorescent cells (SLAC), i.e. lymphocytic and monocytic cells, increased very strongly from day 2 until day 21 of infection; in contrast, the number of large highly autofluorescent cells (LHAC), i.e. mostly macrophages, remained constant until day 14 of infection, increased slightly on day 21 and then decreased. On day 21 of infection in specific-pathogen-free piglets approximately 60% of the SLAC consisted of CD2CD8CD4γδTCR cells, which were partly CD8CD6 and partly CD8CD6. These phenotypes correspond to that of cytotoxic T-cells and natural killer cells respectively. From these results we can conclude that during a PRRSV infection the total number of BALF cells increases mainly due to an influx of lymphocytic cells with a cytolytic phenotype.


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