Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) causes lethal disease in humans, which is characterized by exacerbated inflammatory response and extensive lung pathology. To address the relevance of small non-coding RNAs in SARS-CoV pathology, we deep sequenced RNAs from the lungs of infected mice and discovered three 18–22 nt small viral RNAs (svRNAs). The three svRNAs were derived from the nsp3 (svRNA-nsp3.1 and -nsp3.2) and N (svRNA-N) genomic regions of SARS-CoV. Biogenesis of CoV svRNAs was RNase III, cell type, and host species independent, but it was dependent on the extent of viral replication. Antagomir-mediated inhibition of svRNA-N significantly reduced in vivo lung pathology and pro-inflammatory cytokine expression. Taken together, these data indicate that svRNAs contribute to SARS-CoV pathogenesis and highlight the potential of svRNA-N antagomirs as antivirals.
Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a cause of severe respiratory infection in humans, specifically the elderly and people with comorbidities. The re-emergence of lethal coronaviruses calls for international collaboration to produce coronavirus vaccines, which are still lacking to date. Ongoing efforts to develop MERS-CoV vaccines should consider the different target populations (dromedary camels and humans) and the correlates of protection. Extending on our current knowledge of MERS, vaccination of dromedary camels to induce mucosal immunity could be a promising approach to diminish MERS-CoV transmission to humans. In addition, it is equally important to develop vaccines for humans that induce broader reactivity against various coronaviruses to be prepared for a potential next CoV outbreak.
Dromedary camels from Africa and Arabia are an established source for zoonotic Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection among humans. In Pakistan, we found specific neutralizing antibodies in samples from 39.5% of 565 dromedaries, documenting significant expansion of the enzootic range of MERS-CoV to Asia.