Prior infection with SARS-CoV-2 WA1/2020 partially protects rhesus macaques against reinfection with B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 variants

Sci Transl Med. 2021 Nov 3;13(618):eabj2641. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abj2641. Epub 2021 Nov 3.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants that result in increased transmissibility and partial evasion of neutralizing antibodies have recently emerged. Whether natural immunity induced by the original SARS-CoV-2 WA1/2020 strain protects against rechallenge with these SARS-CoV-2 variants remains a critical unresolved question. In this study, we show that natural immunity induced by the WA1/2020 strain leads to partial but incomplete protection against the SARS-CoV-2 variants B.1.1.7 (alpha) and B.1.351 (beta) in rhesus macaques. We challenged rhesus macaques with B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 and showed that infection with these variants resulted in high viral replication in the upper and lower respiratory tract. We then infected rhesus macaques with the WA1/2020 strain and rechallenged them on day 35 with the WA1/2020, B.1.1.7, or B.1.351 variants. Natural immunity to WA1/2020 led to robust protection against rechallenge with WA1/2020 but only partial protection against rechallenge with B.1.351. An intermediate degree of protection was observed in rhesus macaques against rechallenge with B.1.1.7. These data demonstrate partial but incomplete protective efficacy of natural immunity induced by WA1/2020 against SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern. Our findings have important implications for both vaccination and public health strategies in the context of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Reinfection
  • SARS-CoV-2*


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral