Modulation of type I interferon responses potently inhibits SARS-CoV-2 replication and inflammation in rhesus macaques

bioRxiv. 2022 Oct 24;2022.10.21.512606. doi: 10.1101/2022.10.21.512606. Preprint


Type-I interferons (IFN-I) are critical mediators of innate control of viral infections, but also drive recruitment of inflammatory cells to sites of infection, a key feature of severe COVID-19. Here, and for the first time, IFN-I signaling was modulated in rhesus macaques (RMs) prior to and during acute SARS-CoV-2 infection using a mutated IFNα2 (IFN-modulator; IFNmod), which has previously been shown to reduce the binding and signaling of endogenous IFN-I. In SARS-CoV-2-infected RMs, IFNmod reduced both antiviral and inflammatory ISGs. Notably, IFNmod treatment resulted in a potent reduction in (i) SARS-CoV-2 viral load in Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL), upper airways, lung, and hilar lymph nodes; (ii) inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and CD163+MRC1-inflammatory macrophages in BAL; and (iii) expression of Siglec-1, which enhances SARS-CoV-2 infection and predicts disease severity, on circulating monocytes. In the lung, IFNmod also reduced pathogenesis and attenuated pathways of inflammasome activation and stress response during acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. This study, using an intervention targeting both IFN-α and IFN-β pathways, shows that excessive inflammation driven by type 1 IFN critically contributes to SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis in RMs, and demonstrates the potential of IFNmod to limit viral replication, SARS-CoV-2 induced inflammation, and COVID-19 severity.

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  • Preprint