Susceptibility of sheep to experimental co-infection with the ancestral lineage of SARS-CoV-2 and its alpha variant

Natasha N. Gaudreault, Konner Cool, Jessie D. Trujillo, Igor Morozov, David A. Meekins, Chester McDowell, Dashzeveg Bold, Mariano Carossino, Velmurugan Balaraman, Dana Mitzel, Taeyong Kwon, Daniel W. Madden, Bianca Libanori Artiaga, Roman M. Pogranichniy, Gleyder Roman-Sosa, William C. Wilson, Udeni B.R. Balasuriya, Adolfo García-Sastre, Juergen A. Richt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is responsible for a global pandemic that has had significant impacts on human health and economies worldwide. SARS-CoV-2 is highly transmissible and the cause of coronavirus disease 2019 in humans. A wide range of animal species have also been shown to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 by experimental and/or natural infections. Sheep are a commonly farmed domestic ruminant that have not been thoroughly investigated for their susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, we performed in vitro and in vivo studies which consisted of infection of ruminant-derived cells and experimental challenge of sheep to investigate their susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2. Our results showed that sheep-derived kidney cells support SARS-CoV-2 replication. Furthermore, the experimental challenge of sheep demonstrated limited infection with viral RNA shed in nasal and oral swabs at 1 and 3-days post challenge (DPC); viral RNA was also detected in the respiratory tract and lymphoid tissues at 4 and 8 DPC. Sero-reactivity was observed in some of the principal infected sheep but not the contact sentinels, indicating that transmission to co-mingled naïve sheep was not highly efficient; however, viral RNA was detected in respiratory tract tissues of sentinel animals at 21 DPC. Furthermore, we used a challenge inoculum consisting of a mixture of two SARS-CoV-2 isolates, representatives of the ancestral lineage A and the B.1.1.7-like alpha variant of concern, to study competition of the two virus strains. Our results indicate that sheep show low susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection and that the alpha variant outcompeted the lineage A strain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-675
Number of pages14
JournalEmerging Microbes and Infections
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • SARS-CoV-2
  • co-infection
  • ovine
  • ruminant
  • sheep
  • susceptibility
  • transmission


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