Analysis of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome 2 Replication in Explant Cultures of the Human Upper Respiratory Tract Reveals Broad Tissue Tropism of Wild-Type and B.1.1.7 Variant Viruses

J Infect Dis. 2021 Dec 15;224(12):2020-2024. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiab523.


Background: The upper respiratory tract (URT) is the primary entry site for severe acute respiratory syndrome 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and other respiratory viruses, but its involvement in viral amplification and pathogenesis remains incompletely understood.

Methods: In this study, we investigated primary nasal epithelial cultures, as well as vital explanted tissues, to scrutinize the tropism of wild-type SARS-CoV-2 and the recently emerged B.1.1.7 variant.

Results: Our analyses revealed a widespread replication competence of SARS-CoV-2 in polarized nasal epithelium as well as in the examined URT and salivary gland tissues, which was also shared by the B.1.1.7 virus.

Conclusions: In our analyses, we highlighted the active role of these anatomic sites in coronavirus disease 2019.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; influenza; upper respiratory tract; variants of concern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / virology*
  • Humans
  • Respiratory System / virology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Trachea
  • Viral Tropism*
  • Virus Replication*

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants