Currently, there are four seasonal coronaviruses associated with relatively mild respiratory tract disease in humans. However, there are also a plethora of animal coronaviruses, which have the potential to cross the species border. This regularly results in the emergence of new viruses in humans. In 2002 SARS-CoV emerged, to rapidly disappear in May 2003. In 2012 MERS-CoV was identified as a possible threat to humans, but its pandemic potential so far is minimal, as the human-to-human transmission is ineffective. The end of 2019 brought us information about the SARS-CoV-2 emergence, and the virus rapidly spread in 2020 causing an unprecedented pandemic.At present, the studies on the virus are carried out using a surrogate system based on the immortalized simian Vero E6 cell line. This model is convenient for diagnostics, but it has serious limitations and does not allow for the understanding of virus biology and evolution.Here we show that fully differentiated human airway epithelium cultures constitute an excellent model to study the infection with the novel human coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. We observed an efficient replication of the virus in the tissue, with the maximal replication at 2 days post-infection. The virus replicated in ciliated cells and was released apically.IMPORTANCE SARS-CoV-2 emerged by the end of 2019 to rapidly spread in 2020. At present, it is of utmost importance to understand the virus biology and to rapidly assess the potential of existing drugs and develop new active compounds. While some animal models for such studies are under development, most of the research is carried out in the Vero E6 cells. Here, we propose fully differentiated human airway epithelium cultures as a model for studies on the SARS-CoV-2.
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