Neuroinvasion and encephalitis following intranasal inoculation of SARS-CoV-2 in K18-hACE2 mice

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
P. KumariMukesh Kumar

Abstract

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection can cause neurological disease in humans, but little is known about the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the central nervous system. Herein, using K18-hACE2 mice, we demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 neuroinvasion and encephalitis is associated with mortality in these mice. Intranasal infection of K18-hACE2 mice with 105 plaque-forming units of SARS-CoV-2 resulted in 100% mortality by day 6 after infection. The highest virus titers in the lungs were observed at day 3 and declined at days 5 and 6 after infection. In contrast, very high levels of infectious virus were uniformly detected in the brains of all the animals at days 5 and 6. Onset of severe disease in infected mice correlated with peak viral levels in the brain. SARS-CoV-2-infected mice exhibited encephalitis hallmarks characterized by production of cytokines and chemokines, leukocyte infiltration, hemorrhage and neuronal cell death. SARS-CoV-2 was also found to productively infect cells within the nasal turbinate, eye and olfactory bulb, suggesting SARS-CoV-2 entry into the brain by this route after intranasal infection. Our data indicate that direct infection of CNS cells together with the induce...Continue Reading

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