Primary exposure to SARS-CoV-2 protects against reinfection in rhesus macaques

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Science  14 Aug 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6505, pp. 818-823
DOI: 10.1126/science.abc5343

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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


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which is caused by infection with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has become a global pandemic. It is unclear whether convalescing patients have a risk of reinfection. We generated a rhesus macaque model of SARS-CoV-2 infection that was characterized by interstitial pneumonia and systemic viral dissemination mainly in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. Rhesus macaques reinfected with the identical SARS-CoV-2 strain during the early recovery phase of the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection did not show detectable viral dissemination, clinical manifestations of viral disease, or histopathological changes. Comparing the humoral and cellular immunity between primary infection and rechallenge revealed notably enhanced neutralizing antibody and immune responses. Our results suggest that primary SARS-CoV-2 exposure protects against subsequent reinfection in rhesus macaques.

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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