Comparative Replication and Immune Activation Profiles of SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV in Human Lungs: An Ex Vivo Study With Implications for the Pathogenesis of COVID-19.Clin Infect Dis. 2020 09 12; 71(6):1400-1409.CI
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is an emerging coronavirus that has resulted in more than 2 000 000 laboratory-confirmed cases including over 145 000 deaths. Although SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV share a number of common clinical manifestations, SARS-CoV-2 appears to be highly efficient in person-to-person transmission and frequently causes asymptomatic or presymptomatic infections. However, the underlying mechanisms that confer these viral characteristics of high transmissibility and asymptomatic infection remain incompletely understood.
We comprehensively investigated the replication, cell tropism, and immune activation profile of SARS-CoV-2 infection in human lung tissues with SARS-CoV included as a comparison.
SARS-CoV-2 infected and replicated in human lung tissues more efficiently than SARS-CoV. Within the 48-hour interval, SARS-CoV-2 generated 3.20-fold more infectious virus particles than did SARS-CoV from the infected lung tissues (P < .024). SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV were similar in cell tropism, with both targeting types I and II pneumocytes and alveolar macrophages. Importantly, despite the more efficient virus replication, SARS-CoV-2 did not significantly induce types I, II, or III interferons in the infected human lung tissues. In addition, while SARS-CoV infection upregulated the expression of 11 out of 13 (84.62%) representative proinflammatory cytokines/chemokines, SARS-CoV-2 infection only upregulated 5 of these 13 (38.46%) key inflammatory mediators despite replicating more efficiently.
Our study provides the first quantitative data on the comparative replication capacity and immune activation profile of SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV infection in human lung tissues. Our results provide important insights into the pathogenesis, high transmissibility, and asymptomatic infection of SARS-CoV-2.