BACKGROUND: Influenza virus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are among the most common viruses causing infections of the lower respiratory tract in young children. Although there are important differences in the immunopathogenesis of these 2 viral pathogens, little is known about how they affect antigen-presenting cells in children with acute infections. METHODS: To characterize the immune cells that are mobilized to the respiratory tract by influenza virus and RSV, we analyzed nasal wash and blood samples obtained from children hospitalized with acute respiratory infections. RESULTS: Influenza virus and RSV mobilize immune cells, including myeloid dendritic cells (mDCs) and plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), to the nasal mucosa. Patients with influenza virus infection had greater numbers of mDCs, pDCs, and monocytes in nasal wash samples than did patients with RSV infection. The frequencies of respiratory tract and blood T cell subsets were not affected by infection with influenza virus or RSV. Monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 concentrations in nasal wash samples were significantly increased in patients with influenza virus infection but not in those with RSV infection. RANTES (regulated on activation, normally T cell expressed and secreted) concentrations were increased only in the blood of patients with influenza virus infection. CONCLUSIONS: Infection with influenza virus or RSV mobilizes antigen-presenting cells to the respiratory tract. The differences in antigen-presenting cell numbers and cytokine concentrations suggest that there are distinctive, early immune responses to these 2 viruses.
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