Ultra- and micro-structural changes of respiratory tracts in SARS-CoV-2 infected Syrian hamsters

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The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic is causing a global crisis. It is still unresolved. Although many therapies and vaccines are being studied, they are still in their infancy. As this pandemic continues, rapid and accurate research for the development of therapies and vaccines is needed. Therefore, it is necessary to understand characteristics of diseases caused by SARS-CoV-2 through animal models. Syrian hamsters are known to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. They were intranasally inoculated with SARS-CoV-2. At 2, 4, 8, 12, and 16 days post-infection (dpi), these hamsters were euthanized, and tissues were collected for ultrastructural and microstructural examinations. Microscopic lesions were prominent in the upper and lower respiratory tracts from 2 and 4 dpi groups, respectively. The respiratory epithelium in the trachea, bronchiole, and alveolar showed pathological changes. Inflammatory cells including neutrophils, lymphocytes, macrophages, and eosinophils were infiltrated in/around tracheal lamina propria, pulmonary vessels, alveoli, and bronchiole. In pulmonary lesions, alveolar wall was thickened with infiltrated inflammatory cells, mainly neutrophils and macrophages. In the trachea, epithelial damages started from 2 dpi and recovered from 8 dpi, consistent with microscopic results, High levels of SARS-CoV-2 nucleoprotein were detected at 2 dpi and 4 dpi. In the lung, lesions were most severe at 8 dpi. Meanwhile, high levels of SARS-CoV-2 were detected at 4 dpi. Electron microscopic examinations revealed cellular changes in the trachea epithelium and alveolar epithelium such as vacuolation, sparse micro-organelle, and poor cellular margin. In the trachea epithelium, the number of cytoplasmic organelles was diminished, and small vesicles were prominent from 2 dpi. Some of these electron-lucent vesicles were filled with virion particles. From 8 dpi, the trachea epithelium started to recover. Because of shrunken nucleus and swollen cytoplasm, the N/C ratio of type 2 pneumocyte decreased at 8 and 12 dpi. From 8 dpi, lamellar bodies on type 2 pneumocyte cytoplasm were increasingly observed. Their number then decreased from 16 dpi. However, there was no significant change in type 1 pneumocyte. Viral vesicles were only observed in the cytoplasm of type 2 pneumocyte. In conclusion, ultra- and micro-structural changes presented in this study may provide useful information for SARS-CoV-2 studies in various fields.
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MSE-Journal Papers(저널논문)
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