Challenges and Opportunities for Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccines

Volume 372 of the series Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology pp 371-387


Human Airway Epithelial Cell Cultures for Modeling Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection

  • Raymond J. PicklesAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology and Immunology, UNC School of Medicine Email author 

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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is an important human respiratory pathogen with narrow species tropism. Limited availability of human pathologic specimens during early RSV-induced lung disease and ethical restrictions for RSV challenge studies in the lower airways of human volunteers has slowed our understanding of how RSV causes airway disease and greatly limited the development of therapeutic strategies for reducing RSV disease burden. Our current knowledge of RSV infection and pathology is largely based on in vitro studies using nonpolarized epithelial cell-lines grown on plastic or in vivo studies using animal models semipermissive for RSV infection. Although these models have revealed important aspects of RSV infection, replication, and associated inflammatory responses, these models do not broadly recapitulate the early interactions and potential consequences of RSV infection of the human columnar airway epithelium in vivo. In this chapter, the pro et contra of in vitro models of human columnar airway epithelium and their usefulness in respiratory virus pathogenesis and vaccine development studies will be discussed. The use of such culture models to predict characteristics of RSV infection and the correlation of these findings to the human in vivo situation will likely accelerate our understanding of RSV pathogenesis potentially identifying novel strategies for limiting the severity of RSV-associated airway disease.