Human Metapneumovirus Establishes Persistent Infection in the Lungs of Mice and Is Reactivated by Glucocorticoid Treatment
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Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) has been identified as a worldwide agent of serious upper and lower respiratory tract infections in infants and young children. HMPV is second only to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) as a leading cause of bronchiolitis, and, like RSV, consists of two major genotypes that cocirculate and vary among communities year to year. Children who have experienced acute HMPV infection may develop sequelae of wheezing and asthma; however, the features contributing to this pathology remain unknown. A possible mechanism for postbronchiolitis disease is that HMPV might persist in the lung providing a stimulus that could contribute to wheezing and asthma. Using immunohistochemistry to identify HMPV-infected cells in the lungs of mice, we show that HMPV mediates biphasic replication in respiratory epithelial cells then infection migrates to neuronal processes that innervate the lungs where the virus persists with no detectable infection in epithelial cells. After glucocorticoid treatment, the virus is reactivated from neural fibers and reinfects epithelial cells. The findings show that HMPV persists in neural fibers and suggest a mechanism for disease chronicity that has important implications for HMPV disease intervention strategies.
Journal of Virology
Microbiology not elsewhere classified