What is it about?

Age is an important determinant of SARS-CoV-2 pathogenicity. Here we infect bronchial epithelia from adult and child donors and follow the infection over time with imaging and virus quantification. We show rapid virus spread through syncytia formation and release of infected cells into the apical lumen. In contrast, bronchial epithelia that rapidly respond with type-III interferon secretion were able to restrict the infection. We found accelerated type-III interferon secretion mostly in children and few adults.

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Why is it important?

Our findings show the importance of syncytia formation for SARS-CoV-2 spreading and the important role of type-III interferon in infectivity control. Bronchial epithelia rapidly responding with type-III interferon where mainly derived from child donor. This may explain why children are less susceptible to severe Covid-19.


The production of type-III interferon is certainly an important, but likely not the only difference controlling SARS-CoV-2 infection spread. Comparing different age groups in our bronchial model system has the potential to uncover age-dependent drivers of virus replication and cellular control with the potential to find age-adapted antiviral strategies.

MFP CNRS UMR 5234, University of Bordeaux

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This page is a summary of: Bronchial epithelia from adults and children: SARS-CoV-2 spread via syncytia formation and type III interferon infectivity restriction, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2202370119.
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