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[Unspecified Source]; 2020.
Preprint in English | [Unspecified Source] | ID: ppcovidwho-292809

ABSTRACT

SARS-CoV-2 emerged in late 2019 and resulted in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Several animal models have been rapidly developed that recapitulate the asymptomatic to moderate disease spectrum. Now, there is a direct need for additional small animal models to study the pathogenesis of severe COVID-19 and for fast-tracked medical countermeasure development. Here, we show that transgenic mice expressing the human SARS-CoV-2 receptor (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 [hACE2]) under a cytokeratin 18 promoter (K18) are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 and that infection resulted in a dose-dependent lethal disease course. After inoculation with either 10 (4) TCID (50) or 10 (5) TCID (50) , the SARS-CoV-2 infection resulted in rapid weight loss in both groups and uniform lethality in the 10 (5) TCID (50) group. High levels of viral RNA shedding were observed from the upper and lower respiratory tract and intermittent shedding was observed from the intestinal tract. Inoculation with SARS-CoV-2 resulted in upper and lower respiratory tract infection with high infectious virus titers in nasal turbinates, trachea and lungs. The observed interstitial pneumonia and pulmonary pathology, with SARS-CoV-2 replication evident in pneumocytes, were similar to that reported in severe cases of COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 infection resulted in macrophage and lymphocyte infiltration in the lungs and upregulation of Th1 and proinflammatory cytokines/chemokines. Extrapulmonary replication of SARS-CoV-2 was observed in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus of several animals at 7 DPI but not at 3 DPI. The rapid inflammatory response and observed pathology bears resemblance to COVID-19. Taken together, this suggests that this mouse model can be useful for studies of pathogenesis and medical countermeasure development. AUTHORS SUMMARY: The disease manifestation of COVID-19 in humans range from asymptomatic to severe. While several mild to moderate disease models have been developed, there is still a need for animal models that recapitulate the severe and fatal progression observed in a subset of patients. Here, we show that humanized transgenic mice developed dose-dependent disease when inoculated with SARS-CoV-2, the etiological agent of COVID-19. The mice developed upper and lower respiratory tract infection, with virus replication also in the brain after day 3 post inoculation. The pathological and immunological diseases manifestation observed in these mice bears resemblance to human COVID-19, suggesting increased usefulness of this model for elucidating COVID-19 pathogenesis further and testing of countermeasures, both of which are urgently needed.

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