The cold-adapted (ca), temperature-sensitive (ts) respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) subgroup B vaccine candidate, designated RSV 2B33F, was found previously to be restricted in replication, immunogenic, and protective against wild-type (wt) virus challenge in rodents and African green monkeys. We sought to investigate the level of attenuation, immunogenicity and genetic stability of this vaccine candidate in seronegative chimpanzees. The 2B33F vaccine candidate was attenuated in chimpanzees and manifested a ten- and 1000-fold restriction in replication in the upper and lower respiratory tracts respectively, compared with its wt RSV 2B parent virus. Despite this attenuation, chimpanzees immunized with RSV 2B33F were completely resistant to respiratory tract disease and virus replication upon challenge with wt virus. The ts phenotype of the RSV 2B33F mutant exhibited some alteration during replication in vivo in three of four chimpanzees tested. Virus present in nasopharyngeal swab or tracheal lavage secretions of these three chimpanzees was biologically cloned by plaque passage in Vero cells at permissive temperature. The plaque progeny retained the ts phenotype, but uniformly produced plaques at 39 and 40 degrees C to a level intermediate between that of the 2B33F input virus and the 2B wt parent virus, indicating that partial loss of the level of temperature sensitivity occurred following replication in vivo. The implications of these findings for RSV vaccine development are discussed.