Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection in Cattle

Randy E. Sacco, United States Department of Agriculture
J. L. McGill, United States Department of Agriculture
Angela E. Pillatzki, Iowa State University
M. V. Palmer, United States Department of Agriculture
Mark R. Ackermann, Iowa State University

This article is from Veterinary Pathology 50 (2013), doi:10.1177/0300985813501341.


Bovine respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a cause of respiratory disease in cattle worldwide. It has an integral role in enzootic pneumonia in young dairy calves and summer pneumonia in nursing beef calves. Furthermore, bovine RSV infection can predispose calves to secondary bacterial infection by organisms such as Mannheimia haemolytica, Pasteurella multocida, and Histophilus somni, resulting in bovine respiratory disease complex, the most prevalent cause of morbidity and mortality among feedlot cattle. Even in cases where animals do not succumb to bovine respiratory disease complex, there can be long-term losses in production performance. This includes reductions in feed efficiency and rate of gain in the feedlot, as well as reproductive performance, milk production, and longevity in the breeding herd. As a result, economic costs to the cattle industry from bovine respiratory disease have been estimated to approach $1 billion annually due to death losses, reduced performance, and costs of vaccinations and treatment modalities. Human and bovine RSV are closely related viruses with similarities in histopathologic lesions and mechanisms of immune modulation induced following infection. Therefore, where appropriate, we provide comparisons between RSV infections in humans and cattle. This review article discusses key aspects of RSV infection of cattle, including epidemiology and strain variability, clinical signs and diagnosis, experimental infection, gross and microscopic lesions, innate and adaptive immune responses, and vaccination strategies.