A subset of individuals has prolonged disease after COVID-19, which is known as long COVID or post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC). The underlying mechanisms are poorly understood, in part owing to a lack of experimental models. Frere et al. followed hamsters for up to a month after SARS-CoV-2 infection, looking at changes in different tissues, and compared the data with influenza A virus (IAV) infection. Both viruses triggered a similar host response dominated by type I interferon and pathology mostly of the lung with limited involvement of other organs. However, at 31 days post infection, SARS-CoV-2 showed stronger peribronchiolar metaplasia in the lung and tubular atrophy in the kidney. Furthermore, SARS-CoV-2 caused persistent inflammation in the olfactory bulb and epithelium, which was not seen in IAV-infected hamsters. Similar transcriptomic changes were seen in olfactory tissues from human autopsy samples of people recovered from COVID-19. The authors conclude that hamsters could potentially be used for further mechanistic and interventional studies of long COVID.
Frere, J. J. et al. SARS-CoV-2 infection in hamsters and humans results in lasting and unique systemic perturbations post recovery. Sci. Transl. Med. https://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.abq3059 (2022)
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Hofer, U. Animal model of long COVID?. Nat Rev Microbiol 20, 446 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41579-022-00761-6