National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers have developed a model of infection in rhesus macaques that will help scientists around the world better understand how an emerging coronavirus, first identified in September 2012, affects people. The virus has so far infected at least 17 people in the Middle East and Europe, killing 11 of them. The NIH team established the nonhuman primate model in December 2012 and is using it to study how the virus causes disease and to evaluate potential vaccines and antiviral treatments.
The model shows that clinical signs of coronavirus disease appear within 24 hours of infection. These signs include reduced appetite, elevated temperature, increased respiratory rate, cough, goose bumps and hunched posture. In monkeys and humans, the infection causes disease deep in the lungs, leading to pneumonia. Scientists are exploring whether the virus' foothold in the lower respiratory tract impedes its ability to spread efficiently.
Researchers at NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) developed the model after obtaining coronavirus samples from collaborators at Erasmus Medical Center in The Netherlands.
Munster et al. Novel Human Coronavirus Causes Pneumonia in a Macaque Model Resembling Human Disease. New England Journal of Medicine DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc1215691 (2013).
Vincent Munster, Ph.D., chief of the virus ecology unit in NIAID's Laboratory of Virology, is leading the NIAID team investigating the new coronavirus.