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Changes observed in the thymus and lymph nodes 14 days after exposure to BVDV field strains of enhanced or typical virulence in neonatal calves

S.M. Falkenberg, C. Johnson, F.V. Bauermann, J. McGill, M.V. Palmer, R.E. Sacco, J.F. Ridpath
Veterinary immunology and immunopathology 2014 v.160 no.1-2 pp. 70-80
cortex, leukocyte count, strains, normal values, immunosuppression, thymus gland, hemorrhage, macrophages, age, bovine viral diarrhea, neonates, viruses, Bovine viral diarrhea virus 1, CD4-positive T-lymphocytes, death, population, calves, lymph nodes, virulence, infection
Clinical presentation following uncomplicated acute infection with bovine viral diarrhea viruses (BVDV) ranges from clinically unapparent to severe (including hemorrhagic disease and death) depending on the strain virulence. Regardless of clinical presentation, BVDV infection of cattle results in a generalized immunosuppression. BVDV immunosuppression is characterized by a reduction of circulating white blood cells (WBC) that is typically evident by day 3 post infection (PI). In infections with typical BVDV field strains WBC counts decrease until days 6–9 PI and then return to baseline values. In infections with enhanced virulence BVDV, WBC counts may continue to decline through day 14. In this study, the lymph nodes and thymus of non-infected neonatal calves and neonatal calves infected 14 days previously with either a BVDV of typical virulence or one of enhanced virulence were compared. It was found that while calves, infected with the typical virulence BVDV, had cleared BVDV, and WBC counts had returned to near baseline, the number of B-B7+ cells in lymph nodes were reduced whereas numbers of CD4+ cells were increased as compared to control calves. In contrast, calves infected with the high virulence strain, had not cleared the virus by day 14 and WBC counts had not returned to pre-exposure levels. Furthermore, these calves had more substantial deficits of B-B7+ and CD4+ cell subpopulations, compared to calves infected with a typical virulence strain. There were also an increased number of macrophages observed in both lymphoid tissues examined. The thymuses from both groups of BVDV-infected calves were significantly smaller than non-infected age matched calves. The reduction in size was accompanied by a significant depletion of the thymic cortex. These results indicate that regardless of the virulence of the infecting BVDV, infection leaves neonatal calves with deficits in specific lymphocyte subsets and lymphoid tissues that could have long-term immunosuppressive implications.