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EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-292924


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is responsible for a global pandemic that has had significant impacts on human health and economies worldwide. SARS-CoV-2 is highly transmissible and the cause of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in humans. A wide range of animal species have also been shown to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection by experimental and/or natural infections. Domestic and large cats, mink, ferrets, hamsters, deer mice, white-tailed deer, and non-human primates have been shown to be highly susceptible, whereas other species such as mice, dogs, pigs, and cattle appear to be refractory to infection or have very limited susceptibility. Sheep (Ovis aries) are a commonly farmed domestic ruminant that have not previously been thoroughly investigated for their susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, we performed in vitro and in vivo studies which consisted of infection of ruminant-derived cell cultures and experimental challenge of sheep to investigate their susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2. Our results showed that sheep-derived cell cultures support SARS-CoV-2 replication. Furthermore, experimental challenge of sheep demonstrated limited infection with viral RNA shed in nasal and oral swabs primarily at 1-day post challenge (DPC), and also detected in the respiratory tract and lymphoid tissues at 4 and 8 DPC. Sero-reactivity was also observed in some of the principal infected sheep but not the contact sentinels, indicating that transmission to co-mingled naive sheep was not highly efficient;hovewer, viral RNA was detected in some of the respiratory tract tissues of sentinel animals at 21 DPC. Furthermore, we used challenge inoculum consisting of a mixture of two SARS-CoV-2 isolates, representatives of the ancestral lineage A and the B.1.1.7-like alpha variant of concern (VOC), to study competition of the two virus strains. Our results indicate that sheep show low susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection, and that the alpha VOC outcompeted the ancestral lineage A strain.