The mechanism by which bovine herpesvirus 1 (BHV-1) predisposes cattle to bacterial pneumonia was investigated by using an in vitro system to demonstrate immunosuppression. At a multiplicity of infection of 0.001, live or inactivated BHV-1 induced a 50% inhibition of the proliferative response of peripheral blood mononuclear leukocytes to antigen (vaccinia virus in vaccinia virus-immunized cattle which were BHV-1 negative) or interleukin-2. At this same multiplicity of infection, the mitogen-induced proliferation of peripheral blood mononuclear leukocytes was unaffected. This inhibition of antigen and interleukin-2-induced proliferative responses could not be reversed by the addition of excess amounts of interleukin-2 and could not be prevented by the addition of indomethacin to block prostaglandin production. Antibodies to BHV-1, especially those specific for glycoproteins gI and gIV, were able to block the inhibitory effect of BHV-1 in these in vitro assays. These results showed that antibody to BHV-1 blocks the immunosuppressive effect of the virus in vitro and suggested that an appropriate antibody response to BHV-1 could protect cattle from virus-induced immunosuppression leading to secondary bacterial pneumonia
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