Infection with novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) causes pneumonia in Rhesus macaques

Cell Res. 2020 Aug;30(8):670-677. doi: 10.1038/s41422-020-0364-z. Epub 2020 Jul 7.


The 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak is a major challenge for public health. SARS-CoV-2 infection in human has a broad clinical spectrum ranging from mild to severe cases, with a mortality rate of ~6.4% worldwide (based on World Health Organization daily situation report). However, the dynamics of viral infection, replication and shedding are poorly understood. Here, we show that Rhesus macaques are susceptible to the infection by SARS-CoV-2. After intratracheal inoculation, the first peak of viral RNA was observed in oropharyngeal swabs one day post infection (1 d.p.i.), mainly from the input of the inoculation, while the second peak occurred at 5 d.p.i., which reflected on-site replication in the respiratory tract. Histopathological observation shows that SARS-CoV-2 infection can cause interstitial pneumonia in animals, characterized by hyperemia and edema, and infiltration of monocytes and lymphocytes in alveoli. We also identified SARS-CoV-2 RNA in respiratory tract tissues, including trachea, bronchus and lung; and viruses were also re-isolated from oropharyngeal swabs, bronchus and lung, respectively. Furthermore, we demonstrated that neutralizing antibodies generated from the primary infection could protect the Rhesus macaques from a second-round challenge by SARS-CoV-2. The non-human primate model that we established here provides a valuable platform to study SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis and to evaluate candidate vaccines and therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / blood
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / immunology
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Betacoronavirus / genetics*
  • Betacoronavirus / immunology*
  • Betacoronavirus / isolation & purification
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / blood
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronavirus Infections / pathology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Macaca mulatta / virology*
  • Male
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / blood
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnostic imaging
  • Pneumonia, Viral / pathology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • Radiography, Thoracic
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Viral Load
  • Virus Replication


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • RNA, Viral