All known recently emerged human coronaviruses probably originated in bats1. Here we used a single experimental platform based on human lung-only mice (LoM) to demonstrate efficient in vivo replication of all recently emerged human coronaviruses (SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2) and two highly relevant endogenous pre-pandemic SARS-like bat coronaviruses.
Virus replication in this model occurs in bona fide human lung tissue and does not require any type of adaptation of the virus or the host. Our results indicate that bats harbour endogenous coronaviruses capable of direct transmission into humans. Further detailed analysis of pandemic SARS-CoV-2 in vivo infection of LoM human lung tissue showed predominant infection of human lung epithelial cells, including type II pneumocytes present in alveoli and ciliated airway cells.
Acute SARS-CoV-2 infection was highly cytopathic and induced a robust and sustained type I interferon and inflammatory cytokine/chemokine response. Finally, we evaluated a therapeutic and pre-exposure prophylaxis strategy for coronavirus infection.
Our results show that therapeutic and prophylactic administration of EIDD-2801, an oral broad spectrum antiviral currently in phase II–III clinical trials, dramatically inhibited SARS-CoV-2 replication in vivo and thus has significant potential for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.