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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the major cause of respiratory illness in infants worldwide. Neurologic alterations, such as seizures and ataxia, have been associated with RSV infection. We demonstrate the presence of RSV proteins and RNA in zones of the brain—such as the hippocampus, ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus, and brainstem—of infected mice. One month after disease resolution, rodents showed behavioral and cognitive impairment in marble burying (MB) and Morris water maze (MWM) tests. Our data indicate that the learning impairment caused by RSV is a result of a deficient induction of long-term potentiation in the hippocampus of infected animals. In addition, immunization with recombinant bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) expressing RSV nucleoprotein prevented behavioral disorders, corroborating the specific effect of RSV infection over the central nervous system. Our findings provide evidence that RSV can spread from the airways to the central nervous system and cause functional alterations to the brain, both of which can be prevented by proper immunization against RSV.

Original publication




Journal article


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Publication Date





9112 - 9117