Interferon Resistance of Emerging SARS-CoV-2 Variants

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2021 Dec 10:2021.03.20.436257. doi: 10.1101/2021.03.20.436257.


The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants with enhanced transmissibility, pathogenesis and resistance to vaccines presents urgent challenges for curbing the COVID-19 pandemic. While Spike mutations that enhance virus infectivity or neutralizing antibody evasion may drive the emergence of these novel variants, studies documenting a critical role for interferon responses in the early control of SARS-CoV-2 infection, combined with the presence of viral genes that limit these responses, suggest that interferons may also influence SARS-CoV-2 evolution. Here, we compared the potency of 17 different human interferons against multiple viral lineages sampled during the course of the global outbreak, including ancestral and four major variants of concern. Our data reveal increased interferon resistance in emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants, suggesting that evasion of innate immunity may be a significant, ongoing driving force for SARS-CoV-2 evolution. These findings have implications for the increased lethality of emerging variants and highlight the interferon subtypes that may be most successful in the treatment of early infections.

Publication types

  • Preprint