Pre-existing comorbidities such as obesity or metabolic diseases can adversely affect the clinical outcome of COVID-19. Chronic metabolic disorders are globally on the rise and often a consequence of an unhealthy diet, referred to as a Western Diet. For the first time in the Syrian hamster model, we demonstrate the detrimental impact of a continuous high-fat high-sugar diet on COVID-19 outcome. We observed increased weight loss and lung pathology, such as exudate, vasculitis, hemorrhage, fibrin, and edema, delayed viral clearance and functional lung recovery, and prolonged viral shedding. This was accompanied by an altered, but not significantly different, systemic IL-10 and IL-6 profile, as well as a dysregulated serum lipid response dominated by polyunsaturated fatty acid-containing phosphatidylethanolamine, partially recapitulating cytokine and lipid responses associated with severe human COVID-19. Our data support the hamster model for testing restrictive or targeted diets and immunomodulatory therapies to mediate the adverse effects of metabolic disease on COVID-19.
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; Syrian hamster; lipid metabolism; obesity; pathogenesis.