Based on the concept of a common mucosal immune system wherein mucosal associated lymphocytes traffic among the various mucous membranes, the murine gastrointestinal tract was immunized with Sendai virus antigens in order to elicit a virus-specific immune response in the respiratory tract. Multiple intragastric (oral) administration of live or killed Sendai virus induced IgA and IgG antiviral antibodies in both gastrointestinal secretions and serum. When cholera toxin as an adjuvant was included along with virus, gut IgA and IgG as well as serum IgA responses were enhanced. Antiviral antibodies induced in respiratory secretions by oral killed virus plus cholera toxin, however, were variable and protection from virus challenge was not demonstrated. Significantly higher levels of respiratory antiviral antibodies were induced if immunization with oral killed Sendai virus/cholera toxin was combined with intranasal administration of small amounts of killed virus. The combined immunization also resulted in protection of both the upper and lower respiratory tracts from virus infection. Protection of the upper respiratory tract was correlated with the presence of IgA antiviral antibodies in nasal washings. On the other hand, protection of the lower respiratory tract was correlated with IgG antiviral antibodies in bronchoalveolar lavage fluids. Immunization with intranasal killed virus alone conferred partial protection to the lower respiratory tract and no protection to the upper respiratory tract. Thus, oral immunization with killed virus antigen could prime for a protective immune response in the murine respiratory tract and this protective response included IgA antibodies.

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