COVID-19 Mouse Model Reveals Smell Loss Insights


A recently published research by the University of Iowa in Nature reveals that a repurposed mouse model can develop symptoms of both severe COVID-19 (lung harm, blood clusters, irregular veins, and eventually death) and also of milder disease, which includes loss of the feeling of smell.

The study also pointed out that convalescent plasma from a patient who had recovered from COVID-19 protected the mice against the deadly disease. The findings infer that the K18-hACE2 mouse model helps understand a spectrum of COVID-19 disease symptoms and develop and test new treatments.

SARS’ mouse model can help understand COVID-19

The spread of COVID-19 has ended up being a menace for everyone this year. UI researchers Stanley Perlman, MD, Ph.D., and Paul McCray, MD, soon apprehended that a mouse model they had created ten years ago to study SARS might be an invaluable tool for understanding the concerning new disease and for potential testing of the treatments.

Perlman, McCray, and colleagues presented a comprehensive characterization of the effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection in these K18-hACE2 mice, which are now readily attainable from Jackson Laboratories in the new study.

Until the availability of effective treatments or vaccines, the COVID-19 pandemic will remain a significant threat to public health and economies worldwide. A substantial hurdle to developing and testing new antiviral therapies and vaccines for COVID-19 is the lack of good, widely available animal models of the disease.

Infection containing a high dose of the virus generated many of the signs of illness seen in people with severe COVID-19, including critical lung damage, irregularities in blood vessels known as vasculitis, blood clots, and death.

According to McCray, UI professor of pediatrics-pulmonology, “The mouse develops a pretty robust lung disease that is at the end of the spectrum. That allows us to investigate what’s going on with lung disease with COVID. Moreover, people dying from this disease often have vasculitis, which is unusual for coronavirus infections. We concluded that the mice might develop signs of vasculitis in the liver, lung, and brain.”

Anosmia in mice

One fascinating finding was that the infected mice lost their sense of smell. This effect, also known as anosmia, is seen in many people who get COVID-19 but is not well understood.

The study revealed that K18-hACE2 mice treated with convalescent plasma and later infected with SARS-CoV-2 infection did not succumb to the illness but, like most infected patients with mild disease, had a loss of smell as a significant symptom.

Additional examination of the cells in the nasal passage inferred that the anosmia emanates from primary infection and harm to a type of cell that supports the function of neighboring sensory neurons that detect the smell.

According to UI Professor Perlman, “the loss of sense of smell or taste occurs in a large number of patients who have COVID-19. That happens whether they’re sick or if that’s the only symptom of illness they have. Most people gain their sense of smell pretty quickly, but some don’t.”

Unlocking new possibility

He further goes on to say that “this mouse model unlocks the possibility of learning more about how that occurs, and if we could understand the process of why people lose their feeling of smell, this will help us treat people.”

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