Animal models of orthopoxvirus infection

Vet Pathol. 2010 Sep;47(5):852-70. doi: 10.1177/0300985810378649. Epub 2010 Aug 3.


Smallpox was one of the most devastating diseases known to humanity. Although smallpox was eradicated through a historically successful vaccination campaign, there is concern in the global community that either Variola virus (VARV), the causative agent of smallpox, or another species of Orthopoxvirus could be used as agents of bioterrorism. Therefore, development of countermeasures to Orthopoxvirus infection is a crucial focus in biodefense research, and these efforts rely on the use of various animal models. Smallpox typically presented as a generalized pustular rash with 30 to 40% mortality, and although smallpox-like syndromes can be induced in cynomolgus macaques with VARV, research with this virus is highly restricted; therefore, animal models with other orthopoxviruses have been investigated. Monkeypox virus causes a generalized vesiculopustular rash in rhesus and cynomolgus macaques and induces fatal systemic disease in several rodent species. Ectromelia virus has been extensively studied in mice as a model of orthopoxviral infection in its natural host. Intranasal inoculation of mice with some strains of vaccinia virus produces fatal bronchopneumonia, as does aerosol or intranasal inoculation of mice with cowpox virus. Rabbitpox virus causes pneumonia and fatal systemic infections in rabbits and can be naturally transmitted between rabbits by an aerosol route similar to that of VARV in humans. No single animal model recapitulates all known aspects of human Orthopoxvirus infections, and each model has its advantages and disadvantages. This article provides a brief review of the Orthopoxvirus diseases of humans and the key pathologic features of animal models of Orthopoxvirus infections.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Warfare Agents*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Orthopoxvirus / immunology*
  • Poxviridae Infections / immunology*
  • Poxviridae Infections / pathology
  • Poxviridae Infections / prevention & control
  • Poxviridae Infections / virology
  • Viral Vaccines / immunology*
  • Viral Vaccines / standards
  • Viremia / immunology*
  • Viremia / pathology
  • Viremia / prevention & control
  • Viremia / virology


  • Biological Warfare Agents
  • Viral Vaccines