Use of a highly sensitive strand-specific quantitative PCR to identify abortive replication in the mouse model of respiratory syncytial virus disease
ABSTRACT Abstract Background The BALB/c mouse is commonly used to study RSV infection and disease. However, despite the many advantages of this well-characterised model, the inoculum is large, viral replication is restricted and only a very small amount of virus can be recovered from infected animals. A key question in this model is the fate of the administered virus. Is replication really being measured or is the model measuring the survival of the virus over time? To answer these questions we developed a highly sensitive strand-specific quantitative PCR (QPCR) able to accurately quantify the amount of RSV replication in the BALB/c mouse lung, allowing characterisation of RSV negative and positive strand RNA dynamics. Results In the mouse lung, no increase in RSV genome was seen above the background of the original inoculum whilst only a limited transient increase (< 1 log) in positive strand, replicative intermediate (RI) RNA occurred. This RNA did however persist at detectable levels for 59 days post infection. As expected, ribavirin therapy reduced levels of infectious virus and RI RNA in the mouse lung. However, whilst Palivizumab therapy was also able to reduce levels of infectious virus, it failed to prevent production of intracellular RI RNA. A comparison of RSV RNA kinetics in human (A549) and mouse (KLN205) cell lines demonstrated that RSV replication was also severely delayed and impaired in vitro in the mouse cells. Conclusions This is the first time that such a sensitive strand-specific QPCR technique has been to the RSV mouse system. We have accurately quantified the restricted and abortive nature of RSV replication in the mouse. Further in vitro studies in human and mouse cells suggest this restricted replication is due at least in part to species-specific host cell-viral interactions.