Development of a coronavirus disease 2019 nonhuman primate model using airborne exposure

PLoS One. 2021 Feb 2;16(2):e0246366. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0246366. eCollection 2021.


Airborne transmission is predicted to be a prevalent route of human exposure with SARS-CoV-2. Aside from African green monkeys, nonhuman primate models that replicate airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 have not been investigated. A comparative evaluation of COVID-19 in African green monkeys, rhesus macaques, and cynomolgus macaques following airborne exposure to SARS-CoV-2 was performed to determine critical disease parameters associated with disease progression, and establish correlations between primate and human COVID-19. Respiratory abnormalities and viral shedding were noted for all animals, indicating successful infection. Cynomolgus macaques developed fever, and thrombocytopenia was measured for African green monkeys and rhesus macaques. Type II pneumocyte hyperplasia and alveolar fibrosis were more frequently observed in lung tissue from cynomolgus macaques and African green monkeys. The data indicate that, in addition to African green monkeys, macaques can be successfully infected by airborne SARS-CoV-2, providing viable macaque natural transmission models for medical countermeasure evaluation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COVID-19 / pathology
  • COVID-19 / physiopathology*
  • COVID-19 / transmission
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious
  • Female
  • Lung / pathology
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Macaca mulatta*
  • Male
  • SARS-CoV-2 / physiology*
  • Virus Shedding

Grant support

Funding for this effort was provided by the Military Infectious Diseases Research Program under project number 150154769.