The purpose of this experiment was to study the immune response of pigs during an experimental infection with a European strain of Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV). Five pigs were challenged intranasally with PRRSV strain VP21 and another five were kept as controls. Clinical course and humoral and cell-mediated responses were monitored for 70 days post-infection (p.i.). Infected pigs developed mild signs at 24 h p.i. Viraemia was detectable by nested RT-PCR until day 14 p.i. Earliest seroconversions (ELISA) were seen by day 7 p.i. (three of five animals) and, by day 14, all inoculated pigs had seroconverted (ELISA and immunoperoxidase monolayer assay). Virus-neutralizing antibodies were undetectable until day 56 p.i. and, by day 70 p.i., two inoculated pigs still were negative. Flow-cytometry assays using peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) showed an upshift in CD8+ cells (day 7 p.i.) and a downshift of CD21+ cells (days 7 and 28 p.i.). Regarding cell-mediated responses, development of PRRSV-specific gamma interferon-secreting cells (IFN-γ-SC) and interleukin 4-secreting cells (IL4-SC) in PBMC was examined by ELISPOT assay. IFN-γ-SC were not detected significantly until day 14 p.i., whereas, for IL4-SC, no differences between groups were seen. Concurrently with the onset of viraemia and the development of clinical signs, serum haptoglobin levels and interleukin 10 (IL10) in PRRSV-stimulated PBMC-culture supernatants increased significantly. These differences disappeared later on. For IL2, IL4, IL8 or transforming growth factor beta, no differences were seen among groups. These results are compatible with a model in which the immune response does not fully control the outcome of the infection. © 2005 SGM.