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Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2004 Nov;23(11 Suppl):S228-34.

Animal models for studying respiratory syncytial virus infection and its long term effects on lung function.

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Department of Pediatrics, State University of New York Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY, USA.



Human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV) infection causes a spectrum of illnesses ranging from mild infection to life-threatening bronchiolitis and respiratory failure. Human studies on the pathogenesis of RSV infection are invaluable, but animal models permit advances with the use of experimental strategies that would be inappropriate in human studies.


We review the advantages and disadvantages of various animal models for the study of hRSV infection.


No animal model of hRSV infection replicates the complete spectrum of disease severity seen in humans. Available models differ in their ability to incorporate genetic technology and to allow the study of immunity, vaccine efficacy and treatment interventions. Although hRSV establishes disease in primates, this advantage is outweighed by the impracticalities and cost of using such models. The study of bovine RSV infection in calves is appealing because of parallels with human disease. Among rodent models, BALB/c mice have helped delineate the mechanisms underlying vaccine-enhanced RSV disease, and cotton rats have been used for preclinical testing. The single major disadvantage of studying hRSV in rodent models is the limited extent to which this host-restricted human pneumovirus replicates in mouse lung tissue. The rodent-specific Pneumovirus pathogen, pneumonia virus of mice, causes an infection that mirrors severe bronchiolitis and pneumonia in infants infected with RSV, including robust virus replication with profound inflammation.


The recent development of the pneumonia virus of mice model has permitted exploration of the mechanisms of severe Pneumovirus disease in vivo with the use of sophisticated genetic tools and genetically manipulated mouse strains.

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