Background: Human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) causes severe respiratory disease in infants. Airway epithelial cells are the principle targets of RSV infection. However, the mechanisms by which it causes disease are poorly understood. Most RSV pathogenesis data are derived using laboratory-adapted prototypic strains. We hypothesized that such strains may be poorly representative of recent clinical isolates in terms of virus/host interactions in primary human bronchial epithelial cells (PBECs).
Methods: To address this hypothesis, we isolated three RSV strains from infants hospitalized with bronchiolitis and compared them with the prototypic RSV A2 in terms of cytopathology, virus growth kinetics and chemokine secretion in infected PBEC monolayers.
Results: RSV A2 rapidly obliterated the PBECs, whereas the clinical isolates caused much less cytopathology. Concomitantly, RSV A2 also grew faster and to higher titers in PBECs. Furthermore, dramatically increased secretion of IP-10 and RANTES was evident following A2 infection compared with the clinical isolates.
Conclusions: The prototypic RSV strain A2 is poorly representative of recent clinical isolates in terms of cytopathogenicity, viral growth kinetics and pro-inflammatory responses induced following infection of PBEC monolayers. Thus, the choice of RSV strain may have important implications for future RSV pathogenesis studies.