Justin J Frere, Randal A Serafini, Kerri D Pryce, Marianna Zazhytska, Kohei Oishi, Ilona Golynker, Maryline Panis, Jeffrey Zimering, Shu Horiuchi, Daisy A Hoagland, Rasmus Møller, Anne Ruiz, Albana Kodra, Jonathan B Overdevest, Peter D Canoll, Alain C Borczuk, Vasuretha Chandar, Yaron Bram, Robert Schwartz, Stavros Lomvardas, Venetia Zachariou, Benjamin R tenOever
The host response to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection can result in prolonged pathologies collectively referred to as post-acute sequalae of COVID-19 (PASC) or long COVID. To better understand the mechanism underlying long COVID biology, we compared the short- and long-term systemic responses in the golden hamster after either SARS-CoV-2 or influenza A virus (IAV) infection. Results demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 exceeded IAV in its capacity to cause permanent injury to the lung and kidney and uniquely affected the olfactory bulb (OB) and olfactory epithelium (OE). Despite a lack of detectable infectious virus, the OB and OE demonstrated myeloid and T cell activation, proinflammatory cytokine production, and an interferon response that correlated with behavioral changes extending a month after viral clearance. These sustained transcriptional changes could also be corroborated from tissue isolated from individuals who recovered from COVID-19. These data highlight a molecular mechanism for persistent COVID-19 symptomology and provide a small animal model to explore future therapeutics.