Small animal models have played a critical role in understanding the pathogenesis and transmission of disease caused by filoviruses. Notably, small animals have served to identify and validate many different approaches to countering infection with these highly pathogenic viruses. Nonetheless, predictive efficacy between each model does not appear to be equivalent as higher order animals seem to be more prognostic and therefore successful in the evaluation of medical countermeasures (MCM). Areas covered: This review comprehensively details the available small animal models of filovirus infection and discusses the benefits and shortcomings of each model with respect to the development of MCM. An up-to-date evaluation of mouse, hamster, guinea pig, and ferret models is provided. Expert opinion: The recent development of the domestic ferret model for ebolavirus offers a small animal model that faithfully reproduces most features of human disease without the need for viral adaptation or an immunocompromised host. That being said, choosing a small animal model to evaluate a particular MCM must consider potential confounders associated with each model. These confounding issues include incomplete host immune systems or mutations in the challenge virus that enables the disease.
Keywords: Ebola; Marburg; animal models; drugs; ferrets; filovirus; guinea pigs; hamsters; medical countermeasures; mice; nonhuman primates; rodents; therapeutics; vaccines.