SARS-CoV-2 infection of Chinese hamsters (Cricetulus griseus) reproduces COVID-19 pneumonia in a well-established small animal model

Transbound Emerg Dis. 2021 May;68(3):1075-1079. doi: 10.1111/tbed.13837. Epub 2020 Sep 25.


The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has caused a yet unresolved global crisis. Effective medical intervention by vaccination or therapy seems to be the only possibility to control the pandemic. In this context, animal models are an indispensable tool for basic and applied research to combat SARS-CoV-2 infection. Here, we established a SARS-CoV-2 infection model in Chinese hamsters suitable for studying pathogenesis of the disease as well as pre-clinical testing of vaccines and therapies. This species of hamster is susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection as demonstrated by robust virus replication in the upper and lower respiratory tract accompanied by bronchitis and pneumonia as well as significant body weight loss following infection. The Chinese hamster features advantages compared to the Syrian hamster model, including more pronounced clinical symptoms, its small size, well-characterized genome, transcriptome and translatome data and availability of molecular tools.

Keywords: coronavirus; experimental animal models; histopathology.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COVID-19 / pathology
  • COVID-19 / veterinary*
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Disease Susceptibility / pathology
  • Disease Susceptibility / veterinary
  • Humans
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung / virology
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Virus Replication