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J Virol ; 97(2): e0168422, 2023 02 28.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2193454


The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Omicron variant is becoming a dominant circulator and has several mutations in the spike glycoprotein, which may cause shifts of immunogenicity, so as to result in immune escape and breakthrough infection among the already infected or vaccinated populations. It is unclear whether infection with Omicron could generate adequate cross-variant protection. To investigate this possibility, we used Syrian hamsters as an animal model for infection of SARS-CoV-2. The serum from Omicron BA.1 variant-infected hamsters showed a significantly lower neutralization effect against infection of the same or different SARS-CoV-2 variants than the serum from Beta variant-infected hamsters. Furthermore, the serum from Omicron BA.1 variant-infected hamsters were insufficient to protect against rechallenge of SARS-CoV-2 Prototype, Beta and Delta variants and itself. Importantly, we found that rechallenge with different SARS-CoV-2 lineages elevated cross-variant serum neutralization titers. Overall, our findings indicate a weakened immunogenicity feature of Omicron BA.1 variant that can be overcome by rechallenge of a different SARS-CoV-2 lineages. Our results may lead to a new guideline in generation and use of the vaccinations to combat the pandemic of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant and possible new variants. IMPORTANCE The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Omicron variant causes breakthrough infections among convalescent patients and vaccinated populations. However, Omicron does not generate robust cross-protective responses. Here, we investigate whether heterologous SARS-CoV-2 challenge is able to enhance antibody response in a sensitive animal model, namely, Syrian hamster. Of note, a heterologous challenge of Beta and Omicron BA.1 variant significantly broadens the breadth of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing responses against the prototype, Beta, Delta, and Omicron BA.1 variants. Our findings confirm that vaccination strategy with heterologous antigens might be a good option to protect against the evolving SARS-CoV-2.

COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Animals , Cricetinae , Antibodies, Neutralizing , Antibodies, Viral , Antigens, Heterophile/immunology , Breakthrough Infections , COVID-19/prevention & control , Mesocricetus , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Immunogenicity, Vaccine