Transcriptional Profiling of Immune and Inflammatory Responses in the Context of SARS-CoV-2 Fungal Superinfection in a Human Airway Epithelial Model

Microorganisms. 2020 Dec 11;8(12):1974. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms8121974.


An increasing amount of evidence indicates a relatively high prevalence of superinfections associated with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), including invasive aspergillosis, but the underlying mechanisms remain to be characterized. In the present study, to better understand the biological impact of superinfection, we determine and compare the host transcriptional response to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) versus Aspergillus superinfection, using a model of reconstituted human airway epithelium. Our analyses reveal that both simple infection and superinfection induce strong deregulation of core components of innate immune and inflammatory responses, with a stronger response to superinfection in the bronchial epithelial model compared to its nasal counterpart. Our results also highlight unique transcriptional footprints of SARS-CoV-2 Aspergillus superinfection, such as an imbalanced type I/type III IFN, and an induction of several monocyte and neutrophil associated chemokines, that could be useful for the understanding of Aspergillus-associated COVID-19 and also the management of severe forms of aspergillosis in this specific context.

Keywords: Aspergillus; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; invasive aspergillosis; transcriptional profiling.