To investigate the role of CD8+ T lymphocytes in recovery from influenza pneumonia, we used transgenic mice either homozygous (-/-) or heterozygous (+/-) for beta 2-microglobulin (beta 2-M) gene disruption. These mice lack major histocompatibility complex-restricted class I (CD8+) T cells. We found that after challenge with a nonlethal influenza virus, the beta 2-M (-/-) mice had significantly delayed pulmonary viral clearance. Furthermore, after challenge with a more virulent influenza virus, the beta 2-M (-/-) mice had a significantly higher mortality rate than did control mice. Thus, CD8+ T cells are important in recovery from virulent influenza infections, but other host defense mechanisms can clear the respiratory tract of more benign infections.

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