Jacob et al. Emerg Infect Dis. 2023 Jun 12;29(7).
Isolating and characterizing emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants is key to understanding virus pathogenesis. In this study, we isolated samples of the SARS-CoV-2 R.1 lineage, categorized as a variant under monitoring by the World Health Organization, and evaluated their sensitivity to neutralizing antibodies and type I interferons. We used convalescent serum samples from persons in Canada infected either with ancestral virus (wave 1) or the B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant of concern (wave 3) for testing neutralization sensitivity. The R.1 isolates were potently neutralized by both the wave 1 and wave 3 convalescent serum samples, unlike the B.1.351 (Beta) variant of concern. Of note, the R.1 variant was significantly more resistant to type I interferons (IFN-α/β) than was the ancestral isolate. Our study demonstrates that the R.1 variant retained sensitivity to neutralizing antibodies but evolved resistance to type I interferons. This critical driving force will influence the trajectory of the pandemic.