The role of T-cell subsets in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection was investigated by using monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to selectively deplete gnotobiotic calves of CD4+, CD8+, or WC1+ gamma delta T-cell receptor+ lymphocytes. Injection of these MAbs produced specific reductions of the target cell populations in the circulation and tissues. Ten days after RSV infection, immunoglobulin M (IgM), IgG1, and IgA antibodies were detected in sera and lung washings from control calves. Depletion of CD8+ T cells had no effect on either the serum or local antibody responses to RSV, whereas depletion of CD4+ T cells suppressed the antibody responses in two of three calves. The IgM and IgA responses were significantly increased in the lung washings of calves from which WC1+ T cells were depleted. Depletion of CD4+ or WC1+ T cells caused no significant delay in virus clearance, although an increase in the extent of pneumonic consolidation was observed in anti-CD4-treated calves. Nasopharyngeal excretion of RSV was prolonged in calves depleted of CD8+ T cells, and virus was isolated in high titers from lung washings of these animals 10 days after infection, whereas virus had been cleared from lung washings of all other animals. The delayed virus clearance was associated with an increase in the severity of pneumonic consolidation in three of four of the calves from which CD8+ T cells were depleted. This study shows that CD8+ T cells play a dominant role in the recovery of calves from RSV infection
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