3D reconstruction of SARS-CoV-2 infection in ferrets emphasizes focal infection pattern in the upper respiratory tract : [Preprint]
The visualization of viral pathogens in infected tissues is an invaluable tool to understand spatial virus distribution, localization, and cell tropism in vivo. Commonly, virus-infected tissues are analyzed using conventional immunohistochemistry in paraffin-embedded thin sections. Here, we demonstrate the utility of volumetric three-dimensional (3D) immunofluorescence imaging using tissue optical clearing and light sheet microscopy to investigate host-pathogen interactions of pandemic SARS-CoV-2 in ferrets at a mesoscopic scale. The superior spatial context of large, intact samples (> 150 mm3) allowed detailed quantification of interrelated parameters like focus-to-focus distance or SARS-CoV-2-infected area, facilitating an in-depth description of SARS-CoV-2 infection foci. Accordingly, we could confirm a preferential infection of the ferret upper respiratory tract by SARS-CoV-2 and emphasize a distinct focal infection pattern in nasal turbinates. Conclusively, we present a proof-of-concept study for investigating critically important respiratory pathogens in their spatial tissue morphology and demonstrate the first specific 3D visualization of SARS-CoV-2 infection.