Parainfluenza virus 5 (PIV5) infects a wide range of animals including dogs, pigs, cats, and humans; however, its association with disease in humans remains controversial. In contrast to parainfluenza virus 3 (PIV3) or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), PIV5 is remarkably non-cytopathic in monolayer cultures of immortalized epithelial cells. To compare the cytopathology produced by these viruses in a relevant human tissue, we infected an in vitro model of human ciliated airway epithelium and measured outcomes of cytopathology. PIV5, PIV3 and, RSV all infected ciliated cells, and PIV5 and PIV3 infection was dependent on sialic acid residues. Only PIV5-infected cells formed syncytia. PIV5 infection resulted in a more rapid loss of infected cells by shedding of infected cells into the lumen. These studies revealed striking differences in cytopathology of PIV5 versus PIV3 or RSV and indicate the extent of cytopathology determined in cell-lines does not predict events in differentiated airway cells.
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