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BACKGROUND: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections occur in human populations around the globe, causing disease of variable severity, disproportionately affecting infants and older adults (>65 years of age). Immune responses can be protective but also contribute to disease. Experimental studies in animals enable detailed investigation of immune responses, provide insights into clinical questions, and accelerate the development of passive and active vaccination. We aimed to review the role of antibody and T-cell responses in relation to RSV disease severity in animals. METHODS: Systematic review and meta-analysis of animal studies examining the association between T-cell responses/phenotype or antibody titers and severity of RSV disease. The PubMed, Zoological Record, and Embase databases were screened from January 1980 to May 2018 to identify animal studies of RSV infection that assessed serum antibody titer or T lymphocytes with disease severity as an outcome. Sixty-three studies were included in the final review. RESULTS: RSV-specific antibody appears to protect from disease in mice, but such an effect was less evident in bovine RSV. Strong T-cell, Th1, Th2, Th17, CD4/CD8 responses, and weak Treg responses accompany severe disease in mice. CONCLUSIONS: Murine studies suggest that measures of T-lymphocyte activity (particularly CD4 and CD8 T cells) may be predictive biomarkers of severity. Further inquiry is merited to validate these results and assess relevance as biomarkers for human disease.

Original publication




Journal article


The Journal of infectious diseases

Publication Date





S117 - S129