Natural history of Sudan ebolavirus infection in rhesus and cynomolgus macaques

Emerg Microbes Infect. 2022 Dec;11(1):1635-1646. doi: 10.1080/22221751.2022.2086072.


Due to its high mortality rate and continued re-emergence, Ebolavirus disease (EVD) continues to pose a serious threat to global health. A group of viruses within the genus Ebolavirus causes this severe hemorrhagic disease in humans: Ebola virus (EBOV; species Zaire ebolavirus), Sudan virus (SUDV; species Sudan ebolavirus), Bundibugyo virus, and Taï Forest virus. EBOV and SUDV are associated with the highest case fatality rates. While the host response to EBOV has been comprehensively examined, limited data exists for SUDV infection. For medical countermeasure testing, well-characterized SUDV nonhuman primate (NHP) models are thus needed. Here, we describe a natural history study in which rhesus (N = 11) and cynomolgus macaques (N = 14) were intramuscularly exposed to a 1000 plaque-forming unit dose of SUDV (Gulu variant). Time-course analyses of various hematological, pathological, serological, coagulation, and transcriptomic findings are reported. SUDV infection was uniformly lethal in cynomolgus macaques (100% mortality), whereas a single rhesus macaque subject (91% mortality) survived to the study endpoint (median time-to-death of ∼8.0 and ∼8.5 days in cynomolgus and rhesus macaques, respectively). Infected macaques exhibited hallmark features of human EVD. The early stage was typified by viremia, granulocytosis, lymphopenia, albuminemia, thrombocytopenia, and decreased expression of HLA-class transcripts. At mid-to-late disease, animals developed fever and petechial rashes, and expressed high levels of pro-inflammatory mediators, pro-thrombotic factors, and markers indicative of liver and kidney injury. End-stage disease was characterized by shock and multi-organ failure. In summary, macaques recapitulate human SUDV disease, supporting these models for use in the development of vaccines and therapeutics.

Keywords: Ebola virus; Sudan ebolavirus; Sudan virus; animal models; filovirus; macaques; natural history; nonhuman primates.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ebolavirus* / genetics
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola*
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Uganda