The inflammatory microenvironment of the lung at the time of infection governs innate control of SARS-CoV-2 replication

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SARS-CoV-2 infection leads to vastly divergent clinical outcomes ranging from asymptomatic infection to fatal disease. Co-morbidities, sex, age, host genetics and vaccine status are known to affect disease severity. Yet, how the inflammatory milieu of the lung at the time of SARS-CoV-2 exposure impacts the control of viral replication remains poorly understood. We demonstrate here that immune events in the mouse lung closely preceding SARS-CoV-2 infection significantly impact viral control and we identify key innate immune pathways required to limit viral replication. A diverse set of pulmonary inflammatory stimuli, including resolved antecedent respiratory infections with S. aureus or influenza, ongoing pulmonary M. tuberculosis infection, ovalbumin/alum-induced asthma or airway administration of defined TLR ligands and recombinant cytokines, all establish an antiviral state in the lung that restricts SARS-CoV-2 replication upon infection. In addition to antiviral type I interferons, the broadly inducible inflammatory cytokines TNFα and IL-1 precondition the lung for enhanced viral control. Collectively, our work shows that SARS-CoV-2 may benefit from an immunologically quiescent lung microenvironment and suggests that heterogeneity in pulmonary inflammation that precedes or accompanies SARS-CoV-2 exposure may be a significant factor contributing to the population-wide variability in COVID-19 disease outcomes.

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