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Vet Microbiol. 1993 Nov;37(3-4):319-41.

Antigenic diversity of respiratory syncytial viruses and its implication for immunoprophylaxis in ruminants.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Practice, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


Bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) is a very important pathogen of cattle and perhaps other ruminants. It is a major contributor to the incidence of respiratory tract disease in nursing beef and feedlot and dairy calves. The genome of respiratory syncytial viruses encodes 10 proteins translated from 10 unique mRNAs. The major glycoprotein (G), fusion protein (F), 1A protein and the 22K protein are components of the viral envelope. The nucleocapsid contains the nucleocapsid protein (N), the phosphoprotein (P), and the large protein (L). The matrix protein (M) forms a structural layer between the envelope and the nucleocapsid. Antibodies to all the structural proteins develop in convalescent calves. However, evidence suggests that immunity develops primarily as a result of the antigenic stimulus by the major glycoprotein G and the fusion glycoprotein F. It is known also that activated cytotoxic T cells interact with N and F protein antigens and helper T cells interact with N, F, and 1A protein antigens. With the exception of the major glycoprotein, the respective proteins of various respiratory syncytial viruses share major antigenic domains. Based on antigenic differences of the major glycoprotein, at least 3 subgroups of RSV are recognized; human A, human B, and bovine RSV. Indirect evidence suggests that a second subgroup of BRSV exists. However, we have identified only one BRSV subgroup based on our work with RNase mismatch cleavage analysis of the G protein gene from a limited number of strains. Furthermore, our data indicated that a caprine RSV isolate is closely related to the bovine strains, but an ovine isolate is not. The latter may constitute yet another subgroup of RSV. These data affect decisions on optimization of immunoprophylaxis since evidence suggests that protection against a homologous RSV subgroup virus is superior to that against a heterologous strain in immune subjects.

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