Infection- or AZD1222 vaccine-mediated immunity reduces SARS-CoV-2 transmission but increases Omicron competitiveness in hamsters.
Port JR., Yinda CK., Riopelle JC., Weishampel ZA., Saturday TA., Avanzato VA., Schulz JE., Holbrook MG., Barbian K., Perry-Gottschalk R., Haddock E., Martens C., Shaia CI., Lambe T., Gilbert SC., van Doremalen N., Munster VJ.
Limited data is available on the effect of vaccination and previous virus exposure on the nature of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and immune-pressure on variants. To understand the impact of pre-existing immunity on SARS-CoV-2 airborne transmission efficiency, we perform a transmission chain experiment using naïve, intranasally or intramuscularly AZD1222 vaccinated, and previously infected hamsters. A clear gradient in transmission efficacy is observed: Transmission in hamsters vaccinated via the intramuscular route was reduced over three airborne chains (approx. 60%) compared to naïve animals, whereas transmission in previously infected hamsters and those vaccinated via the intranasal route was reduced by 80%. We also find that the Delta B.1.617.2 variant outcompeted Omicron B.1.1.529 after dual infection within and between hosts in naïve, vaccinated, and previously infected transmission chains, yet an increase in Omicron B.1.1.529 competitiveness is observed in groups with pre-existing immunity against Delta B.1.617.2. This correlates with an increase in the strength of the humoral response against Delta B.1.617.2, with the strongest response seen in previously infected animals. These data highlight the continuous need to improve vaccination strategies and address the additional evolutionary pressure pre-existing immunity may exert on SARS-CoV-2.