The Golden Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) is now commonly used in preclinical research for the study of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and the assessment of vaccines, drugs and therapeutics. Here we show that hamsters inoculated via the intranasal route with the same infectious virus dose of prototypical SARS-CoV-2 administered in a different volume present with different clinical signs, weight loss and viral shedding, with a reduced volume resulting in reduced severity of disease similar to that obtained by a 500-fold reduction in challenge dose. The tissue burden of virus and the severity of pulmonary pathology were also significantly affected by different challenge inoculum volumes. These findings suggest that direct comparison between the severity of SARS-CoV-2 variants or studies assessing the efficacy of treatments determined by hamster studies cannot be made unless both the challenge dose and inoculation volume are matched when using the intranasal route. Additionally, analysis of sub-genomic and total genomic RNA PCR data demonstrated no link between sub-genomic and live viral titres and that sub-genomic analyses do not provide any information beyond that provided by more sensitive total genomic PCR.
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