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Respiratory disease and virus shedding in rhesus macaques inoculated with SARS-CoV-2

By Vincent J. Munster, Friederike Feldmann, Brandi N. Williamson, Neeltje van Doremalen, Lizzette Pérez-Pérez, Jonathan Schulz, Kimberly Meade-White, Atsushi Okumura, Julie Callison, Beniah Brumbaugh, Victoria A. Avanzato, Rebecca Rosenke, Patrick W. Hanley, Greg Saturday, Dana Scott, Elizabeth R. Fischer, Emmie de Wit

Posted 21 Mar 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.03.21.001628 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2324-7)

An outbreak of a novel coronavirus, now named SARS-CoV-2, causing respiratory disease and a ~2% case fatality rate started in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Following unprecedented rapid global spread, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Although data on disease in humans are emerging at a steady pace, certain aspects of the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2 can only be studied in detail in animal models, where repeated sampling and tissue collection is possible. Here, we show that SARS-CoV-2 causes respiratory disease in infected rhesus macaques, with disease lasting 8-16 days. Pulmonary infiltrates, a hallmark of human disease, were visible in lung radiographs of all animals. High viral loads were detected in swabs from the nose and throat of all animals as well as in bronchoalveolar lavages; in one animal we observed prolonged rectal shedding. Taken together, the rhesus macaque recapitulates moderate disease observed in the majority of human cases. The establishment of the rhesus macaque as a model of COVID-19 will increase our understanding of the pathogenesis of this disease and will aid development and testing of medical countermeasures.

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