SARS-CoV-2 evades immune detection in alveolar macrophages.EMBO Rep. 2020 Oct 28 [Online ahead of print]ER
Respiratory infections, like the current COVID-19 pandemic, target epithelial cells in the respiratory tract. Alveolar macrophages (AMs) are tissue-resident macrophages located within the lung. They play a key role in the early phases of an immune response to respiratory viruses. AMs are likely the first immune cells to encounter SARS-CoV-2 during an infection, and their reaction to the virus will have a profound impact on the outcome of the infection. Interferons (IFNs) are antiviral cytokines and among the first cytokines produced upon viral infection. In this study, AMs from non-infectious donors are challenged with SARS-CoV-2. We demonstrate that challenged AMs are incapable of sensing SARS-CoV-2 and of producing an IFN response in contrast to other respiratory viruses, like influenza A virus and Sendai virus, which trigger a robust IFN response. The absence of IFN production in AMs upon challenge with SARS-CoV-2 could explain the initial asymptotic phase observed during COVID-19 and argues against AMs being the sources of pro-inflammatory cytokines later during infection.