Respiratory viruses and eosinophils: exploring the connections

Antiviral Res. 2009 Jul;83(1):1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2009.04.005. Epub 2009 Apr 16.


In this review, we consider the role played by eosinophilic leukocytes in the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of respiratory virus infection. The vast majority of the available information on this topic focuses on respiratory syncytial virus (RSV; Family Paramyxoviridae, genus Pneumovirus), an important pediatric pathogen that infects infants worldwide. There is no vaccine currently available for RSV. A formalin-inactivated RSV vaccine used in a trial in the 1960s elicited immunopathology in response to natural RSV infection; this has been modeled experimentally, primarily in inbred mice and cotton rats. Eosinophils are recruited to the lung tissue in response to formalin-inactivated RSV vaccine antigens in humans and in experimental models, but they may or may not be involved in promoting the severe clinical sequelae observed. Pulmonary eosinophilia elicited in response to primary RSV infection has also been explored; this response is particularly evident in the youngest human infants and in neonatal mouse models. Although pulmonary eosinophilia is nearly always perceived in a negative light, the specific role played by virus-elicited eosinophils - negative, positive or neutral bystander - remain unclear. Lastly, we consider the data that focus on the role of eosinophils in promoting virus clearance and antiviral host defense, and conclude with a recent study that explores the role of eosinophils themselves as targets of virus infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Eosinophils / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lung / pathology
  • Mice
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / immunology*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / virology*
  • Respiratory Syncytial Viruses / immunology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / immunology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology
  • Sigmodontinae