Respiratory disease in rhesus macaques inoculated with SARS-CoV-2

Nature. 2020 Sep;585(7824):268-272. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2324-7. Epub 2020 May 12.


An outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which is caused by a novel coronavirus (named SARS-CoV-2) and has a case fatality rate of approximately 2%, started in Wuhan (China) in December 20191,2. Following an unprecedented global spread3, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020. Although data on COVID-19 in humans are emerging at a steady pace, some aspects of the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2 can be studied in detail only in animal models, in which repeated sampling and tissue collection is possible. Here we show that SARS-CoV-2 causes a respiratory disease in rhesus macaques that lasts between 8 and 16 days. Pulmonary infiltrates, which are a hallmark of COVID-19 in humans, were visible in lung radiographs. We detected high viral loads in swabs from the nose and throat of all of the macaques, as well as in bronchoalveolar lavages; in one macaque, we observed prolonged rectal shedding. Together, the rhesus macaque recapitulates the moderate disease that has been observed in the majority of human cases of COVID-19. The establishment of the rhesus macaque as a model of COVID-19 will increase our understanding of the pathogenesis of this disease, and aid in the development and testing of medical countermeasures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Betacoronavirus / pathogenicity*
  • Body Fluids / virology
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications
  • Coronavirus Infections / pathology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / physiopathology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Cough / complications
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Fever / complications
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Lung / virology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications
  • Pneumonia, Viral / pathology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / physiopathology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • Radiography
  • Respiration Disorders / complications
  • Respiration Disorders / pathology*
  • Respiration Disorders / physiopathology
  • Respiration Disorders / virology*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Time Factors
  • Viral Load