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Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2012 Aug 15;148(3-4):343-7. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2012.05.006. Epub 2012 May 8.

Regulatory T cells are decreased in acute RHDV lethal infection of adult rabbits.

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Departamento de Anatomia, ICBAS, Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas de Abel Salazar, Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal.


Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) is the etiologic agent of rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD), an acute lethal infection that kills 90% of adult rabbits due to severe acute liver inflammation. Interestingly, young rabbits are naturally resistant to RHDV infection. Here, we have compared naturally occurring CD4(+)Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs) between young and adult rabbits after infection by RHDV. The number and frequency of Tregs was decreased in the spleen of adult rabbits 24h after the RHDV infection; this was in contrast with the unchanged number and frequency of splenic Tregs found in young rabbits after the same infection. Also, serum levels of IL-10 and TGF-β were enhanced in the infected adult rabbits whereas no alteration was observed in infected young rabbits. However, this increase is accompanied by a burst of pro-inflammatory cytokines, but seems not able to prevent the death of the animals with severe acute liver inflammation in few days after infection. Since Tregs downregulate inflammation, we conclude that their decrease may contribute to the natural susceptibility of adult rabbits to RHDV infection.

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