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The pigtail macaque (Macaca nemestrina) model of COVID-19 reproduces diverse clinical outcomes and reveals new and complex signatures of disease.

The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19 disease, has killed over five million people worldwide as of December 2021 with infections rising again due to the emergence of highly transmissible variants. Animal models that faithfully recapitulate human disease are critical for assessing SARS-CoV-2 viral and immune dynamics, for understanding mechanisms of disease, and for testing vaccines and therapeutics. Pigtail macaques (PTM, Macaca nemestrina) demonstrate a rapid and severe disease course when infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), including the development of severe cardiovascular symptoms that are pertinent to COVID-19 manifestations in humans. We thus proposed this species may likewise exhibit severe COVID-19 disease upon infection with SARS-CoV-2. Here, we extensively studied a cohort of SARS-CoV-2-infected PTM euthanized either 6- or 21-days after respiratory viral challenge. We show that PTM demonstrate largely mild-to-moderate COVID-19 disease. Pulmonary infiltrates were dominated by T cells, including CD4+ T cells that upregulate CD8 and express cytotoxic molecules, as well as virus-targeting T cells that were predominantly CD4+. We also noted increases in inflammatory and coagulation markers in blood, pulmonary pathologic lesions, and the development of neutralizing antibodies. Together, our data demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 infection of PTM recapitulates important features of COVID-19 and reveals new immune and viral dynamics and thus may serve as a useful animal model for studying pathogenesis and testing vaccines and therapeutics.

Citation: 

Melton, Alexandra, Lara A. Doyle-Meyers, Robert V. Blair, Cecily Midkiff, Hunter J. Melton, Kasi Russell-Lodrigue, Pyone P. Aye, et al. “The pigtail macaque (Macaca nemestrina) model of COVID-19 reproduces diverse clinical outcomes and reveals new and complex signatures of disease.” Plos Pathog 17, no. 12 (December 2021): e1010162. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1010162.

Published Date: 
Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Published In: 
Plos Pathog
PMID: 
34929014