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Pathogenesis and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in golden hamsters


SARS-CoV-2, a novel coronavirus with high nucleotide identity to SARS-CoV and SARS-related coronaviruses detected in horseshoe bats, has spread across the world and impacted global healthcare systems and economy1,2. A suitable small animal model is needed to support vaccine and therapy development. We report the pathogenesis and transmissibility of the SARS-CoV-2 in golden Syrian hamsters. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated viral antigens in nasal mucosa, bronchial epithelial cells, and in areas of lung consolidation on days 2 and 5 post-inoculation (dpi), followed by rapid viral clearance and pneumocyte hyperplasia on 7 dpi. Viral antigen was also found in the duodenum epithelial cells with viral RNA detected in feces. Notably, SARS-CoV-2 transmitted efficiently from inoculated hamsters to naïve hamsters by direct contact and via aerosols. Transmission via fomites in soiled cages was less efficient. Although viral RNA was continuously detected in the nasal washes of inoculated hamsters for 14 days, the communicable period was short and correlated with the detection of infectious virus but not viral RNA. Inoculated and naturally-infected hamsters showed apparent weight loss, and all animals recovered with the detection of neutralizing antibodies. Our results suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infection in golden Syrian hamsters resemble features found in humans with mild infections.

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Correspondence to Hui-Ling Yen.

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Sia, S.F., Yan, L., Chin, A.W.H. et al. Pathogenesis and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in golden hamsters. Nature (2020).

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