Elevated temperature inhibits SARS-CoV-2 replication in respiratory epithelium independently of the induction of IFN-mediated innate immune defences
The pandemic spread of SARS-CoV-2, the etiological agent of COVID-19, represents a significant and ongoing international health crisis. A key symptom of SARS-CoV-2 infection is the onset of fever, with a hyperthermic temperature range of 38 to 41°C. Fever is an evolutionarily conserved host response to microbial infection and inflammation that can influence the outcome of viral pathogenicity and regulation of host innate and adaptive immune responses. However, it remains to be determined what
... fect elevated temperature has on SARS-CoV-2 tropism and replication. Utilizing a 3D air-liquid interface (ALI) model that closely mimics the natural tissue physiology and cellular tropism of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the respiratory airway, we identify tissue temperature to play an important role in the regulation of SARS-CoV-2 infection. We show that temperature elevation induces wide-spread transcriptome changes that impact upon the regulation of multiple pathways, including epigenetic regulation and lncRNA expression, without disruption of general cellular transcription or the induction of interferon (IFN)-mediated antiviral immune defences. Respiratory tissue incubated at temperatures >37°C remained permissive to SARS-CoV-2 infection but severely restricted the initiation of viral transcription, leading to significantly reduced levels of intraepithelial viral RNA accumulation and apical shedding of infectious virus. To our knowledge, we present the first evidence that febrile temperatures associated with COVID-19 inhibit SARS-CoV-2 replication. Our data identify an important role for temperature elevation in the epithelial restriction of SARS-CoV-2 that occurs independently of the induction of canonical IFN-mediated antiviral immune defences and interferon-stimulated gene (ISG) expression.