The Immune Response to Coronavirus Infection in the Lung
Coronaviruses are important respiratory pathogens in humans and animals of agricultural importance. Five human coronaviruses (HCoV) are currently known to cause respiratory disease. HCoV-229E and HCoV-OC43 cause approximately 30% of common colds and rarely cause severe lower respiratory tract complications in elderly or immunocompromised patients. After the discovery that a coronavirus (SARS-CoV) caused the pandemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003, two additional HCoVs (NL63 and HKU1) were discovered and found to cause lower respiratory tract disease in humans. Porcine and bovine respiratory coronaviruses and infectious bronchitis virus of poultry are important veterinary pathogens that have a severe economic impact on the agriculture industry. Bovine coronaviruses cause both respiratory and enteric diseases and are a
significant cause of mortality of calves in Idaho. A commercially available vaccine against bovine coronavirus does not induce a significant antibody response, and is thus not effective at preventing bovine coronavirus infection or disease. We are studying rat coronaviruses as a model for disease pathogenesis caused by a respiratory coronavirus in its natural host. Small animal models of respiratory coronavirus infection will give us valuable insight into the viral and host determinants of coronaviral pathogenesis, which will lead to effective treatment and vaccination strategies.