Dose-dependent response to infection with SARS-CoV-2 in the ferret model and evidence of protective immunity

Kathryn A. Ryan, Kevin R. Bewley, Susan A. Fotheringham, Gillian S. Slack, Phillip Brown, Yper Hall, Nadina I. Wand, Anthony C. Marriott, Breeze E. Cavell, Julia A. Tree, Lauren Allen, Marilyn J. Aram, Thomas J. Bean, Emily Brunt, Karen R. Buttigieg, Daniel P. Carter, Rebecca Cobb, Naomi S. Coombes, Steve J. Findlay-Wilson, Kerry J. GodwinKaren E. Gooch, Jade Gouriet, Rachel Halkerston, Debbie J. Harris, Thomas H. Hender, Holly E. Humphries, Laura Hunter, Catherine M.K. Ho, Chelsea L. Kennard, Stephanie Leung, Stephanie Longet, Didier Ngabo, Karen L. Osman, Jemma Paterson, Elizabeth J. Penn, Steven Pullan, Emma Rayner, Oliver Skinner, Kimberley Steeds, Irene Taylor, Tom Tipton, Stephen Thomas, Carrie Turner, Robert J. Watson, Nathan R. Wiblin, Sue Charlton, Bassam Hallis, Julian A. Hiscox, Simon Funnell, Mike J. Dennis, Catherine J. Whittaker, Michael G. Catton, Julian Druce, Francisco Javier Salguero Bodes, Miles Carroll

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There is a vital need for authentic COVID-19 animal models to enable the pre-clinical evaluation of candidate vaccines and therapeutics. Here we report a dose titration study of SARS-CoV-2 in the ferret model. After a high (5x10(6)pfu) and medium (5x10(4)pfu) dose of virus is delivered, intranasally, viral RNA shedding in the upper respiratory tract (URT) is observed in 6/6 animals, however, only 1/6 ferrets show similar signs after low dose (5x10(2)pfu) challenge. Following sequential culls pathological signs of mild multifocal bronchopneumonia in approximately 5-15% of the lung is seen on day 3, in high and medium dosed groups. Ferrets re-challenged, after virus shedding ceased, are fully protected from acute lung pathology. The endpoints of URT viral RNA replication & distinct lung pathology are observed most consistently in the high dose group. This ferret model of SARS-CoV-2 infection presents a mild clinical disease. SARS-CoV-2 induces mild infection in ferret model. Here, Ryan et al. characterise optimal infection dosage inducing upper respiratory tract (UTR) viral shedding, progression time of viral shedding, and pathology in ferrets and finally provide evidence for protection after re-challenge.

Original languageEnglish
Article number81
Number of pages13
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online date4 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2021


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