Research Article

SARS-CoV-2 productively infects human gut enterocytes

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Science  03 Jul 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6499, pp. 50-54
DOI: 10.1126/science.abc1669

Intestinal organoids as an infection model

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes an influenza-like disease with a respiratory transmission route; however, patients often present with gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Moreover, the virus has been detected in anal swabs, and cells in the inner-gut lining express the receptor that SARS-CoV-2 uses to gain entry to cells. Lamers et al. used human intestinal organoids, a “mini-gut” cultured in a dish, to demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 readily replicates in an abundant cell type in the gut lining—the enterocyte—resulting in the production of large amounts of infective virus particles in the intestine. This work demonstrates that intestinal organoids can serve as a model to understand SARS-CoV-2 biology and infectivity in the gut.

Science, this issue p. 50


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) can cause coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), an influenza-like disease that is primarily thought to infect the lungs with transmission through the respiratory route. However, clinical evidence suggests that the intestine may present another viral target organ. Indeed, the SARS-CoV-2 receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is highly expressed on differentiated enterocytes. In human small intestinal organoids (hSIOs), enterocytes were readily infected by SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, as demonstrated by confocal and electron microscopy. Enterocytes produced infectious viral particles, whereas messenger RNA expression analysis of hSIOs revealed induction of a generic viral response program. Therefore, the intestinal epithelium supports SARS-CoV-2 replication, and hSIOs serve as an experimental model for coronavirus infection and biology.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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