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Barry Rockx: Comparative pathogenesis of COVID-19, MERS, and SARS in a nonhuman primate model

April 29, 2020

The current pandemic coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was recently identified in patients with an acute respiratory syndrome, COVID-19. To compare its pathogenesis with that of previously emerging coronaviruses, we inoculated cynomolgus macaques with SARS-CoV-2 or MERS-CoV and compared the pathology and virology with historical reports of SARS-CoV infections.

In SARS-CoV-2-infected macaques, virus was excreted from nose and throat in the absence of clinical signs, and detected in type I and II pneumocytes in foci of diffuse alveolar damage and in ciliated epithelial cells of nasal, bronchial, and bronchiolar mucosae. In SARS-CoV-infection, lung lesions were typically more severe, while they were milder in MERS-CoV infection, where virus was detected mainly in type II pneumocytes. These data show that SARS-CoV-2 causes COVID-19-like disease in macaques, and provides a new model to test preventive and therapeutic strategies.

First author: Barry Rockx - in close cooperation with a lot of people from the Department of Viroscience!

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