Resistance of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 Variants to Vaccine-Elicited Sera and Therapeutic Monoclonal Antibodies
The recent emergence of the Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 variants with heavily mutated spike proteins has posed a challenge to the effectiveness of current vaccines and to monoclonal antibody therapy for severe COVID-19. After two immunizations of individuals with no history of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection with BNT162b2 vaccine, neutralizing titer against BA.1 and BA.2 were 20-fold decreased compared to titers against the parental D614G virus. A third immunization boosted overall neutralizing titers by about 5-fold but titers against BA.1 and BA.2 remained about 10-fold below that of D614G. Both Omicron variants were highly resistant to several of the emergency use authorized therapeutic monoclonal antibodies. The variants were highly resistant to Regeneron REGN10933 and REGN10987 and Lilly LY-CoV555 and LY-CoV016 while Vir-7831 and the mixture of AstraZeneca monoclonal antibodies AZD8895 and AZD1061 were significantly decreased in neutralizing titer. Strikingly, a single monoclonal antibody LY-CoV1404 potently neutralized both Omicron variants.
Inflammatory responses in the placenta upon SARS-CoV-2 infection late in pregnancy
The effect of SARS-CoV-2 infection on placental function is not well understood. Analysis of placentas from women who tested positive at delivery showed SARS-CoV-2 genomic and subgenomic RNA in 22 out of 52 placentas. Placentas from two mothers with symptomatic COVID-19 whose pregnancies resulted in adverse outcomes for the fetuses contained high levels of viral Alpha variant RNA. The RNA was localized to the trophoblasts that cover the fetal chorionic villi in direct contact with maternal blood. The intervillous spaces and villi were infiltrated with maternal macrophages and TÂ cells. Transcriptome analysis showed an increased expression of chemokines and pathways associated with viral infection and inflammation. Infection of placental cultures with live SARS-CoV-2 and spike protein-pseudotyped lentivirus showed infection of syncytiotrophoblast and, in rare cases, endothelial cells mediated by ACE2 and Neuropilin-1. Viruses with Alpha, Beta, and Delta variant spikes infected the placental cultures at significantly greater levels.
Increased resistance of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant to neutralization by vaccine-elicited and therapeutic antibodies
BACKGROUND:SARS-CoV-2 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use have been highly successful in preventing infection and lessening disease severity. The vaccines maintain effectiveness against earlier SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern but the heavily mutated, highly transmissible Omicron variant presents an obstacle both to vaccine protection and monoclonal antibody therapies. METHODS:Pseudotyped lentiviruses were incubated with serum from vaccinated and boosted donors or therapeutic monoclonal antibody and then applied to target cells. After 2 days, luciferase activity was measured in a microplate luminometer. Resistance mutations of the Omicron spike were identified using point-mutated spike protein pseudotypes and mapped onto the three-dimensional spike protein structure. FINDINGS/RESULTS:Virus with the Omicron spike protein was 26-fold resistant to neutralization by recovered donor sera and 26-34-fold resistance to Pfizer BNT162b2 and Moderna vaccine-elicited antibodies following two immunizations. A booster immunization increased neutralizing titres against Omicron. Neutralizing titres against Omicron were increased in the sera with a history of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. Analysis of the therapeutic monoclonal antibodies showed that the Regeneron and Eli Lilly monoclonal antibodies were ineffective against the Omicron pseudotype while Sotrovimab and Evusheld were partially effective. INTERPRETATION/CONCLUSIONS:The results highlight the benefit of a booster immunization to protect against the Omicron variant and demonstrate the challenge to monoclonal antibody therapy. The decrease in neutralizing titres against Omicron suggest that much of the vaccine efficacy mayÂ rely on T cells. FUNDING/BACKGROUND:The work was funded by grants from the NIH to N.R.L. (DA046100, AI122390 and AI120898) and 55 to M.J.M. (UM1AI148574).
Variable susceptibility of intestinal organoid-derived monolayers to SARS-CoV-2 infection
Gastrointestinal effects associated with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) are highly variable for reasons that are not understood. In this study, we used intestinal organoid-derived cultures differentiated from primary human specimens as a model to examine interindividual variability. Infection of intestinal organoids derived from different donors with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) resulted in orders of magnitude differences in virus replication in small intestinal and colonic organoid-derived monolayers. Susceptibility to infection correlated with angiotensin I converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) expression level and was independent of donor demographic or clinical features. ACE2 transcript levels in cell culture matched the amount of ACE2 in primary tissue, indicating that this feature of the intestinal epithelium is retained in the organoids. Longitudinal transcriptomics of organoid-derived monolayers identified a delayed yet robust interferon signature, the magnitude of which corresponded to the degree of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Interestingly, virus with the Omicron variant spike (S) protein infected the organoids with the highest infectivity, suggesting increased tropism of the virus for intestinal tissue. These results suggest that heterogeneity in SARS-CoV-2 replication in intestinal tissues results from differences in ACE2 levels, which may underlie variable patient outcomes.
High-Titer Neutralizing Antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 Delta Variant Induced by Alhydroxyquim-II-Adjuvanted Trimeric Spike Antigens
Global control of COVID-19 will require the deployment of vaccines capable of inducing long-term protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2 variants. In this report, we describe an adjuvanted subunit candidate vaccine that affords elevated, sustained, and cross-variant SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) in multiple animal models. Alhydroxiquim-II is a Toll-Like Receptor (TLR) 7/8 small-molecule agonist chemisorbed on aluminum hydroxide (Alhydrogel). Vaccination with Alhydroxiquim-II combined with a stabilized, trimeric form of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (termed CoVac-II) resulted in high-titer NAbs in mice, with no decay in responses over an 8-month period. NAbs from sera of CoVac-II-immunized mice, horses and rabbits were broadly neutralizing against SARS-CoV-2 variants. Boosting long-term CoVac-II-immunized mice with adjuvanted spike protein from the Beta variant markedly increased levels of NAb titers against multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants; notably, high titers against the Delta variant were observed. These data strongly support the clinical assessment of Alhydroxiquim-II-adjuvanted spike proteins to protect against SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern. IMPORTANCE There is an urgent need for next-generation COVID-19 vaccines that are safe, demonstrate high protective efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 variants and can be manufactured at scale. We describe a vaccine candidate (CoVac-II) that is based on stabilized, trimeric spike antigen produced in an optimized, scalable and chemically defined production process. CoVac-II demonstrates strong and persistent immunity after vaccination of mice, and is highly immunogenic in multiple animal models, including rabbits and horses. We further show that prior immunity can be boosted using a recombinant spike antigen from the Beta variant; importantly, plasma from boosted mice effectively neutralize multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants in vitro, including Delta. The strong humoral and Th1-biased immunogenicity of CoVac-II is driven by use of Alhydroxiquim-II (AHQ-II), the first adjuvant in an authorized vaccine that acts through the dual Toll-like receptor (TLR)7 and TLR8 pathways, as part of the Covaxin vaccine. Our data suggest AHQ-II/spike protein combinations could constitute safe, affordable, and mass-manufacturable COVID-19 vaccines for global distribution.
The NSP14/NSP10 RNA repair complex as a Pan-coronavirus therapeutic target
The risk of zoonotic coronavirus spillover into the human population, as highlighted by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, demands the development of pan-coronavirus antivirals. The efficacy of existing antiviral ribonucleoside/ribonucleotide analogs, such as remdesivir, is decreased by the viral proofreading exonuclease NSP14-NSP10 complex. Here, using a novel assay and in silico modeling and screening, we identified NSP14-NSP10 inhibitors that increase remdesivir'sÂ potency. A model compound, sofalcone, both inhibits the exonuclease activity of SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV in vitro, and synergistically enhances the antiviral effect of remdesivir, suppressing the replication of SARS-CoV-2 and the related human coronavirus OC43. The validation of top hits from our primary screenings using cellular systems provides proof-of-concept for the NSP14 complex as a therapeutic target.
Neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 Variants by mRNA and Adenoviral Vector Vaccine-Elicited Antibodies
The increasing prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 variants has raised concerns regarding possible decreases in vaccine effectiveness. Here, neutralizing antibody titers elicited by mRNA-based and adenoviral vector-based vaccines against variant pseudotyped viruses were measured. BNT162b2 and mRNA-1273-elicited antibodies showed modest neutralization resistance against Beta, Delta, Delta plus and Lambda variants whereas Ad26.COV2.S-elicited antibodies from a significant fraction of vaccinated individuals had less neutralizing titer (IC50 <50). The data underscore the importance of surveillance for breakthrough infections that result in severe COVID-19 and suggest a potential benefit by second immunization following Ad26.COV2.S to increase protection from current and future variants.
High-titer neutralization of Mu and C.1.2 SARS-CoV-2 variants by vaccine-elicited antibodies of previously infected individuals
Recently identified severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants Mu and C.1.2 have spike proteins with mutations that may confer resistance to natural and vaccine-elicited antibodies. Analysis of neutralizing antibody titers in the sera of vaccinated individuals without previous history of infection and from convalescent individuals show partial resistance of the viruses. In contrast, sera from individuals with a previous history of SARS-CoV-2 infection who were subsequently vaccinated neutralize variants with titers 4- to 11-fold higher, providing a rationale for vaccination of individuals with previous infection. The heavily mutated C.1.2 spike is the most antibody neutralization-resistant spike to date; however, the avidity of C.1.2 spike protein for angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is low. This finding suggests that the virus evolved to escape the humoral response but has a decrease in fitness, suggesting that it may cause milder disease or be less transmissible. It may be difficult for the spike protein to evolve to escape neutralizing antibodies while maintaining high affinity for ACE2.
Partial Resistance of SARS-CoV-2 Delta Variants to Vaccine-elicited Antibodies and Convalescent sera
Highly transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants identified in India and designated B.1.617, Kappa (B.1.617.1), Delta (B.1.617.2), B.1.618 and B.1.36.29, contain spike mutations L452R, T478K, E484K, E484Q and N440K located within the spike receptor binding domain and thus could contribute to increased transmissibility and potentially allow re-infection or cause resistance to vaccine-elicited antibody. To address these issues, we used lentiviruses pseudotyped by variant spikes to measure their neutralization by convalescent sera, vaccine-elicited and Regeneron therapeutic antibodies and ACE2 affinity. Convalescent sera and vaccine-elicited antibodies neutralized viruses with Delta spike with 2-5-fold decrease in titer in different donors. Regeneron antibody cocktail neutralized virus with the Delta spike with a 2.6-fold decrease in titer. Neutralization resistance to serum antibodies and monoclonal antibodies was mediated by L452R mutation. These relatively modest decreases in antibody neutralization titer for viruses with variant spike proteins suggest that current vaccines will remain protective against the family of Delta variants.
Comparison of Neutralizing Antibody Titers Elicited by mRNA and Adenoviral Vector Vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 Variants
The increasing prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 variants has raised concerns regarding possible decreases in vaccine efficacy. Here, neutralizing antibody titers elicited by mRNA-based and an adenoviral vector-based vaccine against variant pseudotyped viruses were compared. BNT162b2 and mRNA-1273-elicited antibodies showed modest neutralization resistance against Beta, Delta, Delta plus and Lambda variants whereas Ad26.COV2.S-elicited antibodies from a significant fraction of vaccinated individuals were of low neutralizing titer (IC 50 <50). The data underscore the importance of surveillance for breakthrough infections that result in severe COVID-19 and suggest the benefit of a second immunization following Ad26.COV2.S to increase protection against the variants.