Toxicological impact of SARS-CoV-2 on the health of the neotropical fish, Poecilia reticulata
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There have been significant impacts of the current COVID-19 pandemic on society including high health and economic costs. However, little is known about the potential ecological risks of this virus despite its presence in freshwater systems. In this study, we aimed to evaluate the exposure of Poecilia reticulata juveniles to two peptides derived from Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, which was synthesized in the laboratory (named PSPD-2002 and PSPD-2003). For this, the animals were exposed for 35 days to the peptides at a concentration of 40 µg/L and different toxicity biomarkers were assessed. Our data indicated that the peptides were able to induce anxiety-like behavior in the open field test and increased acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity. The biometric evaluation also revealed that the animals exposed to the peptides displayed alterations in the pattern of growth/development. Furthermore, the increased activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT) enzymes were accompanied by increased levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), reactive oxygen species (ROS) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), which suggests a redox imbalance induced by SARS-CoV-2 spike protein peptides. Moreover, molecular docking analysis suggested a strong interaction of the peptides with the enzymes AChE, SOD and CAT, allowing us to infer that the observed effects are related to the direct action of the peptides on the functionality of these enzymes. Consequently, our study provided evidence that the presence of SARS-CoV-2 viral particles in the freshwater ecosystems offer a health risk to fish and other aquatic organisms.