Co-infection of SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus causes more severe and prolonged pneumonia in hamsters

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is currently a serious public health concern worldwide. Notably, co-infection with other pathogens may worsen the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and increase fatality. Here, we show that co-infection with influenza A virus (IAV) causes more severe body weight loss and more severe and prolonged pneumonia in SARS-CoV-2-infected hamsters. Each virus can efficiently spread in the lungs without interference by the other. However, in immunohistochemical analyses, SARS-CoV-2 and IAV were not detected at the same sites in the respiratory organs of co-infected hamsters, suggesting that either the two viruses may have different cell tropisms in vivo or each virus may inhibit the infection and/or growth of the other within a cell or adjacent areas in the organs. Furthermore, a significant increase in IL-6 was detected in the sera of hamsters co-infected with SARS-CoV-2 and IAV at 7 and 10 days post-infection, suggesting that IL-6 may be involved in the increased severity of pneumonia. Our results strongly suggest that IAV co-infection with SARS-CoV-2 can have serious health risks and increased caution should be applied in such cases.