Research Article

SARS-CoV-2 infection protects against rechallenge in rhesus macaques

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Science  14 Aug 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6505, pp. 812-817
DOI: 10.1126/science.abc4776

Immunity from reinfection

One of the many open questions about severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection is whether an individual who has cleared the virus can be infected a second time and get sick. Chandrashekar et al. and Deng et al. generated rhesus macaque models of SARS-CoV-2 infection and tested whether natural SARS-CoV-2 infection could result in immunity to viral rechallenge. They found that animals indeed developed immune responses that protected against a second infection. Although there are differences between SARS-CoV-2 infection in macaques and in humans, these findings have key implications for public health and economic initiatives if validated in human studies.

Science, this issue p. 812, p. 818


An understanding of protective immunity to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is critical for vaccine and public health strategies aimed at ending the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. A key unanswered question is whether infection with SARS-CoV-2 results in protective immunity against reexposure. We developed a rhesus macaque model of SARS-CoV-2 infection and observed that macaques had high viral loads in the upper and lower respiratory tract, humoral and cellular immune responses, and pathologic evidence of viral pneumonia. After the initial viral clearance, animals were rechallenged with SARS-CoV-2 and showed 5 log10 reductions in median viral loads in bronchoalveolar lavage and nasal mucosa compared with after the primary infection. Anamnestic immune responses after rechallenge suggested that protection was mediated by immunologic control. These data show that SARS-CoV-2 infection induced protective immunity against reexposure in nonhuman primates.

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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