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BACKGROUND: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection is a major problem in the newborn and aging populations. Fully human monoclonal antibodies with the ability to neutralize RSV could have a major impact on the immunotherapy of the disease. The generation of human antibodies has been difficult because there exists no general way to activate B cells against an antigen of choice in vitro. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Human spleen cells from individuals exposed to RSV were used to repopulate SCID mice. Hu-SCID mice were boosted with RSV fusion (F)-protein and subsequently developed B cell tumors. The tumors were removed and cultured and subcloned in vitro, using a feeder layer of CD154-expressing T cells. Two of these tumors produced the antibodies designated RF-1 and RF-2. VL genes were isolated by standard PCR techniques, however, it was necessary to use high-temperature reverse transcriptase to clone the VH genes. RESULTS: RF-1 and RF-2 VH genes were both found to be closely related members of the VH2 family. Vk genes originated from the VK III family. RF-1 and RF-2 recombinant antibodies expressed in CHO cells (cRF-1 and cRF-2) were found to have affinities for RSV F-protein of 0.1 nM and 0.07 nM, respectively, and both were able to neutralize several A and B subtypes of RSV. CONCLUSION: The technique of immortalizing human B lymphocytes, by passage in SCID mice and expression as recombinant antibodies in CHO cells, provides a method by which high-affinity human antibodies can be developed for immunotherapy of viral diseases.