Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is especially severe in aged populations1. Resolution of the COVID-19 pandemic has been advanced by the recent development of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, but vaccine efficacy is partly compromised by the recent emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants with enhanced transmissibility2. The emergence of these variants emphasizes the need for further development of anti-SARS-CoV-2 therapies, especially in aged populations. Here, we describe the isolation of a new set of highly virulent mouse-adapted viruses and use them to test a novel therapeutic drug useful in infections of aged animals. Initially, we show that many of the mutations observed in SARS-CoV-2 during mouse adaptation (at positions 417, 484, 501 of the spike protein) also arise in humans in variants of concern (VOC)2. Their appearance during mouse adaptation indicates that immune pressure is not required for their selection. Similar to the human infection, aged mice infected with mouse-adapted SARS-CoV-2 develop more severe disease than young mice. In murine SARS, in which severity is also age-dependent, we showed that elevated levels of an eicosanoid, prostaglandin D2 (PGD2) and of a phospholipase, PLA2G2D, contributed to poor outcomes in aged mice3,4. Using our virulent mouse-adapted SARS-CoV-2, we show that infection of middle-aged mice lacking expression of DP1, a PGD2 receptor, or PLA2G2D are protected from severe disease. Further, treatment with a DP1 antagonist, asapiprant, protected aged mice from a lethal infection. DP1 antagonism is one of the first interventions in SARS-CoV-2-infected animals that specifically protects aged animals, and demonstrates that the PLA2G2D-PGD2/DP1 pathway is a useful target for therapeutic interventions.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; asapiprant; pathogenesis; prostaglandin D2.