Small Particle Aerosol Exposure of African Green Monkeys to MERS-CoV as a Model for Highly Pathogenic Coronavirus Infection

Emerg Infect Dis. 2020 Dec;26(12):2835-2843. doi: 10.3201/eid2612.201664. Epub 2020 Aug 3.


Emerging coronaviruses are a global public health threat because of the potential for person-to-person transmission and high mortality rates. Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) emerged in 2012, causing lethal respiratory disease in »35% of cases. Primate models of coronavirus disease are needed to support development of therapeutics, but few models exist that recapitulate severe disease. For initial development of a MERS-CoV primate model, 12 African green monkeys were exposed to 103, 104, or 105 PFU target doses of aerosolized MERS-CoV. We observed a dose-dependent increase of respiratory disease signs, although all 12 monkeys survived for the 28-day duration of the study. This study describes dose-dependent effects of MERS-CoV infection of primates and uses a route of infection with potential relevance to MERS-CoV transmission. Aerosol exposure of African green monkeys might provide a platform approach for the development of primate models of novel coronavirus diseases.

Keywords: COVID-19; MERS; MERS-CoV; Middle East respiratory syndrome; SARS-CoV; SARS-CoV-2; coronavirus disease; medical countermeasures; model; primate; respiratory infections; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; viruses; zoonoses.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COVID-19
  • Chlorocebus aethiops / virology
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / virology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / pathology
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus / pathogenicity
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus / physiology*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / pathogenicity