Immune durability and protection against SARS-CoV-2 re-infection in Syrian hamsters

C. J. Field, T. A. Heinly, D. R. Patel, D. G. Sim, E. Luley, S. L. Gupta, T. H. Vanderford, J. Wrammert, T. C. Sutton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused a pandemic. As immunity to endemic human coronaviruses (i.e. NL63 or OC43) wanes leading to re-infection, it was unknown if SARS-CoV-2 immunity would also decline permitting repeat infections. Recent case reports confirm previously infected individuals can become re-infected; however, re-infection may be due to heterogeneity in the initial infection or the host immune response, or may be the result of infection with a variant strain that escapes pre-existing immunity. To control these variables, we utilized the Syrian hamster model to evaluate the duration of immunity and susceptibility to re-infection with SARS-CoV-2. Hamsters were given a primary mock or SARS-CoV-2 infection (culture media or 105 TCID50 USA/WA1/2020 isolate, respectively). Mock and SARS-CoV-2 infected hamsters were then given a secondary SARS-CoV-2 infection at 1, 2, 4, or 6 months post-primary infection (n = 14/time point/group). After the primary SARS-CoV-2 infection, hamsters developed anti-spike protein IgG, IgA, and neutralizing antibodies, and these antibodies were maintained for at least 6 months. Upon secondary SARS-CoV-2 challenge, previously SARS-CoV-2 infected animals were protected from weight loss, while all previously mock-infected animals became infected and lost weight. Importantly, despite having high titres of antibodies, one SARS-CoV-2 infected animal re-challenged at 4 months had a breakthrough infection with replicating virus in the upper and lower respiratory tract. These studies demonstrate immunity to SARS-CoV-2 is maintained for 6 months; however, protection may be incomplete and, even in the presence of high antibody titres, previously infected hosts may become re-infected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1103-1114
Number of pages12
JournalEmerging Microbes and Infections
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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