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researchsquare; 2020.


The coronaviruses (CoVs) called the attention of the world for causing outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV), in Asia in 2002-03, and respiratory disease in the Middle East (MERS-CoV), in 2012. In December 2019, yet again a new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) first identified in Wuhan, China, was associated with a severe respiratory infection, known today as COVID-19. This new virus is highly transmissible, and quickly spread throughout China and 30 additional countries. As result, the World Health Organization (WHO) elevated the status of the COVID-19 outbreak from emergency of international concern to pandemic on March 11, 2020. The impact of COVID-19 on public health and economy fueled a worldwide race to approve therapeutic and prophylactic agents, but so far, there are no specific antiviral drugs or vaccines available. In current scenario, the development of in vitro systems for viral mass production and for testing antiviral and vaccine candidates proves to be an urgent matter. Research groups around the world are strongly focused on this, and the susceptibility of different cell lines to SARS-CoV-2 infection has already been demonstrated by molecular techniques. However, data on the biology of SARS-CoV-2 at the ultrastructural level in these in vitro models is still scarce. In this study, we documented, by transmission electron microscopy and real-time RT-PCR, the infection of Vero-E6 cells with SARS-CoV-2 samples isolated from Brazilian patients. The infected cells presented cytopathic effects and SARS-CoV-2 particles were observed attached to the cell surface and inside cytoplasmic vesicles. The entry of the virus into cells occurred through the endocytic pathway or by fusion of the viral envelope with the cell membrane. Assembled nucleocapsids were verified inside rough endoplasmic reticulum cisterns (RER). Viral maturation seemed to occur by budding of viral particles from the RER into smooth membrane vesicles. Therefore, the susceptibility of Vero-E6 cells to SARS-CoV-2 infection and the viral pathway inside the cells were demonstrated by ultrastructural analysis.

Respiratory Tract Diseases , Respiratory Tract Infections , Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome , COVID-19