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Comp Med. 2015 Aug;65(4):315-26.

Acute and Chronic Airway Disease After Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection in Cotton Rats (Sigmodon hispidus).

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Department of Biochemistry, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA.
Center for Immunity and Inflammation, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey, USA.
Center for Immunity and Inflammation, Department of Pathology, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark, New Jersey, USA.


Infection with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) generally presents as a mild, upper airway disease in human patients but may cause severe lower airway disease in the very young and very old. Progress toward understanding the mechanisms of RSV pathogenesis has been hampered by a lack of relevant rodent models. Mice, the species most commonly used in RSV research, are resistant to upper respiratory infection and do not recapitulate the pattern of virus spread in the human host. To address the need for better rodent models of RSV infection, we have characterized the acute and chronic pathology of RSV infection of a relatively permissive host, cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus). We demonstrate that virus delivered to the upper airway results in widespread RSV replication in the ciliated respiratory epithelial cells of the nasal cavity and, to a lesser extent, of the lung. Although acute inflammation is relatively mild and rapidly eliminated after viral clearance, chronic, eosinophilic lung pathology persists. These data support the use of cotton rats as a robust rodent model of human RSV disease, including the association between RSV pneumonia and subsequent development of allergic asthma.

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