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biorxiv; 2023.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2023.08.01.551417


SARS-CoV-2 has continued to evolve throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, giving rise to multiple variants of concern (VOCs) with different biological properties. As the pandemic progresses, it will be essential to test in near real time the potential of any new emerging variant to cause severe disease. BA.1 (Omicron) was shown to be attenuated compared to the previous VOCs like Delta, but it is possible that newly emerging variants may regain a virulent phenotype. Hamsters have been proven to be an exceedingly good model for SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis. Here, we aimed to develop robust quantitative pipelines to assess the virulence of SARS-CoV-2 variants in hamsters. We used various approaches including RNAseq, RNA in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry, and digital pathology, including software assisted whole section imaging and downstream automatic analyses enhanced by machine learning, to develop methods to assess and quantify virus-induced pulmonary lesions in an unbiased manner. Initially, we used Delta and Omicron to develop our experimental pipelines. We then assessed the virulence of recent Omicron sub-lineages including BA.5, XBB, BQ.1.18, BA.2 and BA.2.75. We show that in experimentally infected hamsters, accurate quantification of alveolar epithelial hyperplasia and macrophage infiltrates represent robust markers for assessing the extent of virus-induced pulmonary pathology, and hence virus virulence. In addition, using these pipelines, we could reveal how some Omicron sub-lineages (e.g., BA.2.75) have regained virulence compared to the original BA.1. Finally, to maximise the utility of the digital pathology pipelines reported in our study, we developed an online repository containing representative whole organ histopathology sections that can be visualised at variable magnifications ( Overall, this pipeline can provide unbiased and invaluable data for rapidly assessing newly emerging variants and their potential to cause severe disease.

Adenocarcinoma, Bronchiolo-Alveolar , Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome , COVID-19 , Lung Diseases
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.05.05.21256681


Cell autonomous antiviral defenses can inhibit the replication of viruses and reduce transmission and disease severity. To better understand the antiviral response to SARS-CoV-2, we used interferon-stimulated gene (ISG) expression screening to reveal that OAS1, through RNase L, potently inhibits SARS-CoV-2. We show that while some people can express a prenylated OAS1 variant, that is membrane-associated and blocks SARS-CoV-2 infection, other people express a cytosolic, nonprenylated OAS1 variant which does not detect SARS-CoV-2 (determined by the splice-acceptor SNP Rs10774671). Alleles encoding nonprenylated OAS1 predominate except in people of African descent. Importantly, in hospitalized patients, expression of prenylated OAS1 was associated with protection from severe COVID-19, suggesting this antiviral defense is a major component of a protective antiviral response. Remarkably, approximately 55 million years ago, retrotransposition ablated the OAS1 prenylation signal in horseshoe bats (the presumed source of SARS-CoV-2). Thus, SARS-CoV-2 never had to adapt to evade this defense. As prenylated OAS1 is widespread in animals, the billions of people that lack a prenylated OAS1 could make humans particularly vulnerable to the spillover of coronaviruses from horseshoe bats.