BACKGROUND: Bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) is a major cause of respiratory disease in cattle worldwide. Calves are particularly affected, even with low to moderate levels of BRSV-specific maternally derived antibodies (MDA). Available BRSV vaccines have suboptimal efficacy in calves with MDA, and published infection models in this target group are lacking in clinical expression. Here, we refine and characterize such a model. RESULTS: In a first experiment, 2 groups of 3 calves with low levels of MDA were experimentally inoculated by inhalation of aerosolized BRSV, either: the Snook strain, passaged in gnotobiotic calves (BRSV-Snk), or isolate no. 9402022 Denmark, passaged in cell culture (BRSV-Dk). All calves developed clinical signs of respiratory disease and shed high titers of virus, but BRSV-Snk induced more severe disease, which was then reproduced in a second experiment in 5 calves with moderate levels of MDA. These 5 calves shed high titers of virus and developed severe clinical signs of disease and extensive macroscopic lung lesions (mean+/-SD, 48.3+/-12.0% of lung), with a pulmonary influx of inflammatory cells, characterized by interferon gamma secretion and a marked effect on lung function. CONCLUSIONS: We present a BRSV-infection model, with consistently high clinical expression in young calves with low to moderate levels of BRSV-specific MDA, that may prove useful in studies into disease pathogenesis, or evaluations of vaccines and antivirals. Additionally, refined tools to assess the outcome of BRSV infection are described, including passive measurement of lung function and a refined system to score clinical signs of disease. Using this cognate host calf model might also provide answers to elusive questions about human RSV (HRSV), a major cause of morbidity in children worldwide.
Excerpt from my doctoral defense presentation
In study III, we refined and characterized a BRSV challenge model in calves and a set of tools to evaluate challenge outcomes. This part of my project was a collaboration between three labs, in three different countries, and to facilitate study IV, as well as follow-up studies in the three labs, we needed a common challenge model. We wanted a challenge model with consistently high clinical expression, because unfortunately, without clinical signs in control calves which are similar to the upper spectrum of clinical signs observed in the field, you can’t conclude on the protective efficacy of vaccines.