Viral upper respiratory infections are the most common cause of clinical olfactory dysfunction, but the pathogenesis of dysosmia after viral infection is poorly understood. Biopsies of the olfactory mucosa in patients that complain of dysosmia after viral infection fall into two categories: one in which no olfactory epithelium is seen and another in which the epithelium is disordered and populated mainly by immature neurons. We have used intranasal inoculation with an olfactory bulb line variant of MHV to study the consequences of viral infection on peripheral olfactory structures. MHV OBLV has little direct effect on the olfactory epithelium, but causes extensive spongiotic degeneration and destruction of mitral cells and interneurons in the olfactory bulb such that the axonal projection from the bulb via the lateral olfactory tract is markedly reduced. Moreover, surviving mitral cells apparently remain disconnected from the sensory neuron input to the glomerular layer, judging from retrograde labeling studies using Dil. The damage to the bulb indirectly causes a persistent, long-term increase in the turnover of sensory neurons in the epithelium, i.e. the relative proportion of immature to mature sensory neurons and the rate of basal cell proliferation both increase. The changes that develop after inoculation with MHV OBLV closely resemble the disordering of the olfactory epithelium in some patient biopsies. Thus, damage to the olfactory nerve or bulb may contribute to a form of post-viral olfactory dysfunction and MHV OBLV is a useful model for studying the pathogenesis of this form of dysosmia.