Shotgun Transcriptome and Isothermal Profiling of SARS-CoV-2 Infection Reveals Unique Host Responses, Viral Diversification, and Drug Interactions

In less than nine months, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) killed over a million people, including >25,000 in New York City (NYC) alone. The COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 highlights clinical needs to detect infection, track strain evolution, and identify biomarkers of disease course. To address these challenges, we designed a fast (30-minute) colorimetric test (LAMP) for SARS-CoV-2 infection from naso/oropharyngeal swabs and a large-scale shotgun metatranscriptomics platform (total-RNA-seq) for host, viral, and microbial profiling. We applied these methods to clinical specimens gathered from 669 patients in New York City during the first two months of the outbreak, yielding a broad molecular portrait of the emerging COVID-19 disease. We find significant enrichment of a NYC-distinctive clade of the virus (20C), as well as host responses in interferon, ACE, hematological, and olfaction pathways. In addition, we use 50,821 patient records to find that renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system inhibitors have a protective effect for severe COVID-19 outcomes, unlike similar drugs. Finally, spatial transcriptomic data from COVID-19 patient autopsy tissues reveal distinct ACE2 expression loci, with macrophage and neutrophil infiltration in the lungs. These findings can inform public health and may help develop and drive SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic, prevention, and treatment strategies.

Single-nucleus transcriptome analysis of human brain immune response in patients with severe COVID-19

Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, has been associated with neurological and neuropsychiatric illness in many individuals. We sought to further our understanding of the relationship between brain tropism, neuro-inflammation, and host immune response in acute COVID-19 cases.

Methods: Three brain regions (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, medulla oblongata, and choroid plexus) from 5 patients with severe COVID-19 and 4 controls were examined. The presence of the virus was assessed by western blot against viral spike protein, as well as viral transcriptome analysis covering > 99% of SARS-CoV-2 genome and all potential serotypes. Droplet-based single-nucleus RNA sequencing (snRNA-seq) was performed in the same samples to examine the impact of COVID-19 on transcription in individual cells of the brain.

Results: Quantification of viral spike S1 protein and viral transcripts did not detect SARS-CoV-2 in the postmortem brain tissue. However, analysis of 68,557 single-nucleus transcriptomes from three distinct regions of the brain identified an increased proportion of stromal cells, monocytes, and macrophages in the choroid plexus of COVID-19 patients. Furthermore, differential gene expression, pseudo-temporal trajectory, and gene regulatory network analyses revealed transcriptional changes in the cortical microglia associated with a range of biological processes, including cellular activation, mobility, and phagocytosis.

Conclusions: Despite the absence of detectable SARS-CoV-2 in the brain at the time of death, the findings suggest significant and persistent neuroinflammation in patients with acute COVID-19.

Identification of Required Host Factors for SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Human Cells

To better understand host-virus genetic dependencies and find potential therapeutic targets for COVID-19, we performed a genome-scale CRISPR loss-of-function screen to identify host factors required for SARS-CoV-2 viral infection of human alveolar epithelial cells. Top-ranked genes cluster into distinct pathways, including the vacuolar ATPase proton pump, Retromer, and Commander complexes. We validate these gene targets using several orthogonal methods such as CRISPR knockout, RNA interference knockdown, and small-molecule inhibitors. Using single-cell RNA-sequencing, we identify shared transcriptional changes in cholesterol biosynthesis upon loss of top-ranked genes. In addition, given the key role of the ACE2 receptor in the early stages of viral entry, we show that loss of RAB7A reduces viral entry by sequestering the ACE2 receptor inside cells. Overall, this work provides a genome-scale, quantitative resource of the impact of the loss of each host gene on fitness/response to viral infection.

The Spike D614G mutation increases SARS-CoV-2 infection of multiple human cell types

A novel variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus carrying a point mutation in the Spike protein (D614G) has recently emerged and rapidly surpassed others in prevalence. This mutation is in linkage disequilibrium with an ORF1b protein variant (P314L), making it difficult to discern the functional significance of the Spike D614G mutation from population genetics alone. Here, we perform site-directed mutagenesis on wild-type human-codon-optimized Spike to introduce the D614G variant. Using multiple human cell lines, including human lung epithelial cells, we found that the lentiviral particles pseudotyped with Spike D614G are more effective at transducing cells than ones pseudotyped with wild-type Spike. The increased transduction with Spike D614G ranged from 1.3- to 2.4-fold in Caco-2 and Calu-3 cells expressing endogenous ACE2 and from 1.5- to 7.7-fold in A549ACE2 and Huh7.5ACE2 overexpressing ACE2. Furthermore, trans-complementation of SARS-CoV-2 virus with Spike D614G showed an increased infectivity in human cells. Although there is minimal difference in ACE2 receptor binding between the D614 and G614 Spike variants, the G614 variant is more resistant to proteolytic cleavage, suggesting a possible mechanism for the increased transduction.

Integrative approach identifies SLC6A20 and CXCR6 as putative causal genes for the COVID-19 GWAS signal in the 3p21.31 locus

To date, the locus with the most robust human genetic association to COVID-19 severity is 3p21.31. Here, we integrate genome-scale CRISPR loss-of-function screens and eQTLs in diverse cell types and tissues to pinpoint genes underlying COVID-19 risk. Our findings identify SLC6A20 and CXCR6 as putative causal genes that modulate COVID-19 risk and highlight the usefulness of this integrative approach to bridge the divide between correlational and causal studies of human biology.

Emergence of Multiple SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Escape Variants in an Immunocompromised Host Undergoing Convalescent Plasma Treatment

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants of concern (VOCs), harboring spike protein N-terminal domain (NTD) or receptor-binding domain (RBD) mutations, exhibit reduced in vitro susceptibility to convalescent-phase serum, commercial antibody cocktails, and vaccine neutralization and have been associated with reinfections. The accumulation of these mutations could be the consequence of intrahost viral evolution due to prolonged infection in immunocompromised hosts. In this study, we document the microevolution of SARS-CoV-2 recovered from sequential tracheal aspirates from an immunosuppressed patient on steroids and convalescent plasma therapy and identify the emergence of multiple NTD and RBD mutations. SARS-CoV-2 genomes from the first swab (day 0) and from three tracheal aspirates (days 7, 21, and 27) were compared at the sequence level. We identified a mixed viral population with five different S protein mutations (141 to 144 deletion, 243 to 244 deletion, E484K, Q493K, and Q493R) at the NTD or RBD region from the second tracheal aspirate sample (day 21) and a predominance of the S protein 141 to 144 LGVY deletion and E484K mutant on day 27. The neutralizing antibodies against various S protein lentiviral pseudovirus mutants, as well as the anti-SARS-CoV-2 total Ig and IgG, showed “U” shape dynamics, in support of the endogenous development of neutralizing antibodies. The patient’s compromised immune status, the antirejection regiment, convalescent plasma treatment, and the development of neutralizing antibodies may have resulted in unique selective pressures on the intrahost genomic evolution, and this observation supports the hypotheses that VOCs can independently arise and that immunocompromised patients on convalescent plasma therapy are potential breeding grounds for immune escape mutants.

A novel diagnostic test to screen SARS-CoV-2 variants containing E484K and N501Y mutations

Spike protein mutations E484K and N501Y carried by SARS-CoV-2 variants have been associated with concerning changes of the virus, including resistance to neutralizing antibodies and increased transmissibility. While the concerning variants are fast spreading in various geographical areas, identification and monitoring of these variants are lagging far behind, due in large part to the slow speed and insufficient capacity of viral sequencing. In response to the unmet need for a fast and efficient screening tool, we developed a single-tube duplex molecular assay for rapid and simultaneous identification of E484K and N501Y mutations from nasopharyngeal swab (NS) samples within 2.5 h from sample preparation to report. Using this tool, we screened a total of 1135 clinical NS samples collected from COVID patients at 8 hospitals within the Hackensack Meridian Health network in New Jersey between late December 2020 and March 2021. Our data revealed dramatic increases in the frequencies of both E484K and N501Y over time, underscoring the need for continuous epidemiological monitoring.

Genetic and non-genetic factors affecting the expression of COVID-19-relevant genes in the large airway epithelium

Background: The large airway epithelial barrier provides one of the first lines of defense against respiratory viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19. Substantial inter-individual variability in individual disease courses is hypothesized to be partially mediated by the differential regulation of the genes that interact with the SARS-CoV-2 virus or are involved in the subsequent host response. Here, we comprehensively investigated non-genetic and genetic factors influencing COVID-19-relevant bronchial epithelial gene expression.

Methods: We analyzed RNA-sequencing data from bronchial epithelial brushings obtained from uninfected individuals. We related ACE2 gene expression to host and environmental factors in the SPIROMICS cohort of smokers with and without chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and replicated these associations in two asthma cohorts, SARP and MAST. To identify airway biology beyond ACE2 binding that may contribute to increased susceptibility, we used gene set enrichment analyses to determine if gene expression changes indicative of a suppressed airway immune response observed early in SARS-CoV-2 infection are also observed in association with host factors. To identify host genetic variants affecting COVID-19 susceptibility in SPIROMICS, we performed expression quantitative trait (eQTL) mapping and investigated the phenotypic associations of the eQTL variants.

Results: We found that ACE2 expression was higher in relation to active smoking, obesity, and hypertension that are known risk factors of COVID-19 severity, while an association with interferon-related inflammation was driven by the truncated, non-binding ACE2 isoform. We discovered that expression patterns of a suppressed airway immune response to early SARS-CoV-2 infection, compared to other viruses, are similar to patterns associated with obesity, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, which may thus contribute to a COVID-19-susceptible airway environment. eQTL mapping identified regulatory variants for genes implicated in COVID-19, some of which had pheWAS evidence for their potential role in respiratory infections.

Conclusions: These data provide evidence that clinically relevant variation in the expression of COVID-19-related genes is associated with host factors, environmental exposures, and likely host genetic variation.

X-linked recessive TLR7 deficiency in ~1% of men under 60 years old with life-threatening COVID-19

Autosomal inborn errors of type I IFN immunity and autoantibodies against these cytokines underlie at least 10% of critical COVID-19 pneumonia cases. We report very rare, biochemically deleterious X-linked TLR7 variants in 16 unrelated male individuals aged 7 to 71 years (mean: 36.7 years) from a cohort of 1,202 male patients aged 0.5 to 99 years (mean: 52.9 years) with unexplained critical COVID-19 pneumonia. None of the 331 asymptomatically or mildly infected male individuals aged 1.3 to 102 years (mean: 38.7 years) tested carry such TLR7 variants (p = 3.5 × 10-5). The phenotypes of five hemizygous relatives of index cases infected with SARS-CoV-2 include asymptomatic or mild infection (n=2, 5 and 38 years), or moderate (n=1, 5 years), severe (n=1, 27 years), or critical (n=1, 29 years) pneumonia. Two boys (aged 7 and 12 years) from a cohort of 262 male patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia (mean: 51.0 years) are hemizygous for a deleterious TLR7 variant. The cumulative allele frequency for deleterious TLR7 variants in the male general population is < 6.5×10-4 We also show that blood B cell lines and myeloid cell subsets from the patients do not respond to TLR7 stimulation, a phenotype rescued by wild-type TLR7 The patients’ blood plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) produce low levels of type I IFNs in response to SARS-CoV-2. Overall, X-linked recessive TLR7 deficiency is a highly penetrant genetic etiology of critical COVID-19 pneumonia, in about 1.8% of male patients below the age of 60 years. Human TLR7 and pDCs are essential for protective type I IFN immunity against SARS-CoV-2 in the respiratory tract.

Autoantibodies neutralizing type I IFNs are present in ~ 4% of uninfected individuals over 70 years old and account for ~ 20% of COVID-19 deaths

Circulating autoantibodies (auto-Abs) neutralizing high concentrations (10 ng/mL, in plasma diluted 1 to 10) of IFN-α and/or -ω are found in about 10% of patients with critical COVID-19 pneumonia, but not in subjects with asymptomatic infections. We detect auto-Abs neutralizing 100-fold lower, more physiological, concentrations of IFN-α and/or -ω (100 pg/mL, in 1/10 dilutions of plasma) in 13.6% of 3,595 patients with critical COVID-19, including 21% of 374 patients > 80 years, and 6.5% of 522 patients with severe COVID-19. These antibodies are also detected in 18% of the 1,124 deceased patients (aged 20 days-99 years; mean: 70 years). Moreover, another 1.3% of patients with critical COVID-19 and 0.9% of the deceased patients have auto-Abs neutralizing high concentrations of IFN-β. We also show, in a sample of 34,159 uninfected subjects from the general population, that auto-Abs neutralizing high concentrations of IFN-α and/or -ω are present in 0.18% of individuals between 18 and 69 years, 1.1% between 70 and 79 years, and 3.4% >80 years. Moreover, the proportion of subjects carrying auto-Abs neutralizing lower concentrations is greater in a subsample of 10,778 uninfected individuals: 1% of individuals <70 years, 2.3% between 70 and 80 years, and 6.3% >80 years. By contrast, auto-Abs neutralizing IFN-β do not become more frequent with age. Auto-Abs neutralizing type I IFNs predate SARS-CoV-2 infection and sharply increase in prevalence after the age of 70 years. They account for about 20% of both critical COVID-19 cases in the over-80s, and total fatal COVID-19 cases.

SARS-CoV-2-related MIS-C: A key to the viral and genetic causes of Kawasaki disease?

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) emerged in April 2020 in communities with high COVID-19 rates. This new condition is heterogenous but resembles Kawasaki disease (KD), a well-known but poorly understood and clinically heterogenous pediatric inflammatory condition for which weak associations have been found with a myriad of viral illnesses. Epidemiological data clearly indicate that SARS-CoV-2 is the trigger for MIS-C, which typically occurs about 1 mo after infection. These findings support the hypothesis of viral triggers for the various forms of classic KD. We further suggest that rare inborn errors of immunity (IEIs) altering the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 may underlie the pathogenesis of MIS-C in some children. The discovery of monogenic IEIs underlying MIS-C would shed light on its pathogenesis, paving the way for a new genetic approach to classic KD, revisited as a heterogeneous collection of IEIs to viruses.

Inborn errors of type I IFN immunity in patients with life-threatening COVID-19

Clinical outcome upon infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) ranges from silent infection to lethal coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We have found an enrichment in rare variants predicted to be loss-of-function (LOF) at the 13 human loci known to govern Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3)- and interferon regulatory factor 7 (IRF7)-dependent type I interferon (IFN) immunity to influenza virus in 659 patients with life-threatening COVID-19 pneumonia relative to 534 subjects with asymptomatic or benign infection. By testing these and other rare variants at these 13 loci, we experimentally defined LOF variants underlying autosomal-recessive or autosomal-dominant deficiencies in 23 patients (3.5%) 17 to 77 years of age. We show that human fibroblasts with mutations affecting this circuit are vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2. Inborn errors of TLR3- and IRF7-dependent type I IFN immunity can underlie life-threatening COVID-19 pneumonia in patients with no prior severe infection.

Type 2 and interferon inflammation strongly regulate SARS-CoV-2 related gene expression in the airway epithelium

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by SARS-CoV-2, an emerging virus that utilizes host proteins ACE2 and TMPRSS2 as entry factors. Understanding the factors affecting the pattern and levels of expression of these genes is important for deeper understanding of SARS-CoV-2 tropism and pathogenesis. Here we explore the role of genetics and co-expression networks in regulating these genes in the airway, through the analysis of nasal airway transcriptome data from 695 children. We identify expression quantitative trait loci for both ACE2 and TMPRSS2, that vary in frequency across world populations. We find TMPRSS2 is part of a mucus secretory network, highly upregulated by type 2 (T2) inflammation through the action of interleukin-13, and that the interferon response to respiratory viruses highly upregulates ACE2 expression. IL-13 and virus infection mediated effects on ACE2 expression were also observed at the protein level in the airway epithelium. Finally, we define airway responses to common coronavirus infections in children, finding that these infections generate host responses similar to other viral species, including upregulation of IL6 and ACE2. Our results reveal possible mechanisms influencing SARS-CoV-2 infectivity and COVID-19 clinical outcomes.

A Global Effort to Define the Human Genetics of Protective Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 Infection

SARS-CoV-2 infection displays immense inter-individual clinical variability, ranging from silent infection to lethal disease. The role of human genetics in determining clinical response to the virus remains unclear. Studies of outliers—individuals remaining uninfected despite viral exposure and healthy young patients with life-threatening disease—present a unique opportunity to reveal human genetic determinants of infection and disease.

The pathogenicity of SARS-CoV-2 in hACE2 transgenic mice

Severe acute respiratory syndrome CoV-2 (SARS-CoV-2) caused the corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in China and has become a public health emergency of international concern1. Because angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is the cell entry receptor of SARS-CoV5, we used transgenic mice bearing human ACE2 and infected with SARS-CoV-2 to study the pathogenicity of the virus. Weight loss and virus replication in lung were observed in hACE2 mice infected with SARS-CoV-2. The typical histopathology was interstitial pneumonia with infiltration of significant macrophages and lymphocytes into the alveolar interstitium, and accumulation of macrophages in alveolar cavities. Viral antigens were observed in the bronchial epithelial cells, macrophages and alveolar epithelia. The phenomenon was not found in wild-type mice with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Notably, we have confirmed the pathogenicity of SARS-CoV-2 in hACE2 mice. The mouse model with SARS-CoV-2 infection will be valuable for evaluating antiviral therapeutics and vaccines as well as understanding the pathogenesis of COVID-19.

Development of an inactivated vaccine candidate for SARS-CoV-2

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has resulted in an unprecedented public health crisis. There are currently no SARS-CoV-2-specific treatments or vaccines available due to the novelty of the virus. Hence, rapid development of effective vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 are urgently needed. Here we developed a pilot-scale production of a purified inactivated SARS-CoV-2 virus vaccine candidate (PiCoVacc), which induced SARS-CoV-2-specific neutralizing antibodies in mice, rats and non-human primates. These antibodies neutralized 10 representative SARS-CoV-2 strains, suggesting a possible broader neutralizing ability against SARS-CoV-2 strains. Three immunizations using two different doses (3 μg or 6 μg per dose) provided partial or complete protection in macaques against SARS-CoV-2 challenge, respectively, without observable antibody-dependent enhancement of infection. These data support clinical development of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines for humans.

A Genomic Perspective on the Origin and Emergence of SARS-CoV-2

The ongoing pandemic of a new human coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has generated enormous global concern. We and others in China were involved in the initial genome sequencing of the virus. Herein, we describe what genomic data reveal about the emergence SARS-CoV-2 and discuss the gaps in our understanding of its origins.

Identifying SARS-CoV-2-related coronaviruses in Malayan pangolins

The ongoing outbreak of viral pneumonia in China and across the world is associated with a new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-21. This outbreak has been tentatively associated with a seafood market in Wuhan, China, where the sale of wild animals may be the source of zoonotic infection2. Although bats are probable reservoir hosts for SARS-CoV-2, the identity of any intermediate host that may have facilitated transfer to humans is unknown. Here we report the identification of SARS-CoV-2-related coronaviruses in Malayan pangolins (Manis javanica) seized in anti-smuggling operations in southern China. Metagenomic sequencing identified pangolin-associated coronaviruses that belong to two sub-lineages of SARS-CoV-2-related coronaviruses, including one that exhibits strong similarity in the receptor-binding domain to SARS-CoV-2. The discovery of multiple lineages of pangolin coronavirus and their similarity to SARS-CoV-2 suggests that pangolins should be considered as possible hosts in the emergence of new coronaviruses and should be removed from wet markets to prevent zoonotic transmission.

Structural basis for the recognition of SARS-CoV-2 by full-length human ACE2

Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is the cellular receptor for severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that is causing the serious coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic. Here, we present cryo–electron microscopy structures of full-length human ACE2 in the presence of the neutral amino acid transporter B0AT1 with or without the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the surface spike glycoprotein (S protein) of SARS-CoV-2, both at an overall resolution of 2.9 angstroms, with a local resolution of 3.5 angstroms at the ACE2-RBD interface. The ACE2-B0AT1 complex is assembled as a dimer of heterodimers, with the collectrin-like domain of ACE2 mediating homodimerization. The RBD is recognized by the extracellular peptidase domain of ACE2 mainly through polar residues. These findings provide important insights into the molecular basis for coronavirus recognition and infection.

Imbalanced host response to SARS-CoV-2 drives development of COVID-19

Viral pandemics,such as the one caused by SARS-CoV-2,pose an imminent threat to humanity. Because of its recent emergence, there is a paucity of information regarding viral behavior and host response following SARS-CoV-2 infection. Here, we offer an in-depth analysis of the transcriptionalresponse to SARS-CoV-2 as it compares to other respiratory viruses.Cell and animal models of SARS-CoV-2 infections, in addition totranscriptional and serum profiling of COVID-19 patients,consistently revealedaunique and inappropriate inflammatory response. This response isdefined bylow levels of Type I and III interferons juxtaposed toelevated chemokinesand high expression of IL-6. Taken together, we propose that reduced innate antiviral defenses coupled withexuberant inflammatory cytokineproduction arethedefining and driving feature ofCOVID-19.

Advancing scientific knowledge in times of pandemics

Researchers at the Precision Immunology Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine (PrIISM), New York, describe their contribution to the global research effort against COVID-19 by trying to separate signal from noise in the preprint arena. Companion website (preprint reviews by The Sinai Immunology Review Project)

The Architecture of SARS-CoV-2 Transcriptome

SARS-CoV-2 is a betacoronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the SARS-CoV-2 genome was reported recently, its transcriptomic architecture is unknown. Utilizing two complementary sequencing techniques, we present a high-resolution map of the SARS-CoV-2 transcriptome and epitranscriptome. DNA nanoball sequencing shows that the transcriptome is highly complex owing to numerous discontinuous transcription events. In addition to the canonical genomic and 9 subgenomic RNAs, SARS-CoV-2 produces transcripts encoding unknown ORFs with fusion, deletion, and/or frameshift. Using nanopore direct RNA sequencing, we further find at least 41 RNA modification sites on viral transcripts, with the most frequent motif, AAGAA. Modified RNAs have shorter poly(A) tails than unmodified RNAs, suggesting a link between the modification and the 3′ tail. Functional investigation of the unknown transcripts and RNA modifications discovered in this study will open new directions to our understanding of the life cycle and pathogenicity of SARS-CoV-2.

A SARS-CoV-2 protein interaction map reveals targets for drug repurposing

The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19 respiratory disease, has infected over 2.3 million people, killed over 160,000, and caused worldwide social and economic disruption1,2. There are currently no antiviral drugs with proven clinical efficacy, nor are there vaccines for its prevention, and these efforts are hampered by limited knowledge of the molecular details of SARS-CoV-2 infection. To address this, we cloned, tagged and expressed 26 of the 29 SARS-CoV-2 proteins in human cells and identified the human proteins physically associated with each using affinity-purification mass spectrometry (AP-MS), identifying 332 high-confidence SARS-CoV-2-human protein-protein interactions (PPIs). Among these, we identify 66 druggable human proteins or host factors targeted by 69 compounds (29 FDA-approved drugs, 12 drugs in clinical trials, and 28 preclinical compounds). Screening a subset of these in multiple viral assays identified two sets of pharmacological agents that displayed antiviral activity: inhibitors of mRNA translation and predicted regulators of the Sigma1 and Sigma2 receptors. Further studies of these host factor targeting agents, including their combination with drugs that directly target viral enzymes, could lead to a therapeutic regimen to treat COVID-19.

Coast-to-Coast Spread of SARS-CoV-2 during the Early Epidemic in the United States

The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States in January 2020, with subsequent COVID-19 outbreaks detected in all 50 states by early March. To uncover the sources of SARS-CoV-2 introductions and patterns of spread within the United States, we sequenced nine viral genomes from early reported COVID-19 patients in Connecticut. Our phylogenetic analysis places the majority of these genomes with viruses sequenced from Washington state. By coupling our genomic data with domestic and international travel patterns, we show that early SARS-CoV-2 transmission in Connecticut was likely driven by domestic introductions. Moreover, the risk of domestic importation to Connecticut exceeded that of international importation by mid-March regardless of our estimated effects of federal travel restrictions. This study provides evidence of widespread sustained transmission of SARS-CoV-2 within the United States and highlights the critical need for local surveillance.

Ethics of controlled human infection to address COVID-19

Development of an effective vaccine is the clearest path to controlling the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. To accelerate vaccine development, some researchers are pursuing, and thousands of people have expressed interest in participating in, controlled human infection studies (CHIs) with severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (1, 2). In CHIs, a small number of participants are deliberately exposed to a pathogen to study infection and gather preliminary efficacy data on experimental vaccines or treatments. We have been developing a comprehensive, state-of-the-art ethical framework for CHIs that emphasizes their social value as fundamental to justifying these studies. The ethics of CHIs in general are underexplored (3, 4), and ethical examinations of SARS-CoV-2 CHIs have largely focused on whether the risks are acceptable and participants could give valid informed consent (1). The high social value of such CHIs has generally been assumed. Based on our framework, we agree on the ethical conditions for conducting SARS-CoV-2 CHIs (see the table). We differ on whether the social value of such CHIs is sufficient to justify the risks at present, given uncertainty about both in a rapidly evolving situation; yet we see none of our disagreements as insurmountable. We provide ethical guidance for research sponsors, communities, participants, and the essential independent reviewers considering SARS-CoV-2 CHIs.