Older African green monkeys, captured from the wild, exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus developed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) with clinical symptoms similar to those seen in more severe human cases of COVID-19, report researchers in The American Journal of Pathology, published by Elsevier. This is the first study to show that African green monkeys can develop serious clinical disease after infection with SARS-CoV-2, which suggests that they could be useful models for the study of COVID- 19 in humans.
“Animal models dramatically improve our understanding of disease. The lack of an animal model for severe manifestations of COVID-19 has hampered our understanding of this form of the disease,” said lead researcher Robert V. Blair, DVM, Ph .D., Dip ACVP, Tulane National Primate Research Center, Covington, LA, USA. “If elderly green monkeys prove to be a consistent model of severe COVID-19, studying the pathobiology of the disease in them would improve our understanding of the disease and allow testing of treatment options.”
The researchers exposed four elderly rhesus macaques and four elderly African green monkeys to SARS-CoV-2. Older animals (13-16 years old) were specifically chosen to see if they would develop the severe form of the disease which is seen more frequently in older people. All of the monkeys have developed a spectrum of illnesses ranging from mild to severe COVID-19. A day after routine screening found no noticeable symptoms, two of the African green monkeys developed rapid breathing that quickly progressed to severe respiratory distress. X-ray studies showed that the two African green monkeys had widespread opacities in the lungs, in stark contrast to the images taken the day before, highlighting the rapid development of the disease. These opacities are a hallmark of ARDS in humans.
The African green monkeys who progressed to severe disease exhibited marked increases in plasma cytokines consistent with the cytokine storm, which is believed to be the cause of the development of ARDS in some patients. All four African green monkeys had high levels of gamma interferon; the two who progressed to ARDS had the highest plasma concentrations. Plasma cytokines were not increased in rhesus macaques. Dr Blair suggested that elevation of interferon gamma could be explored as a potential predictive biomarker of advanced disease in patients and a possible therapeutic target.
Dr Blair said: “Our data suggest that African rhesus and green monkeys are able to model mild manifestations of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and that older African green monkeys may also be able to model. model the manifestations of serious illnesses, including ARDS.
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Robert V. Blair et al., Acute respiratory distress in elderly African green monkeys infected with SARS-CoV-2 but not rhesus macaques, The American Journal of Pathology (2020). DOI: 10.1016 / j.ajpath.2020.10.016
Quote: Study identifies non-human primate model that mimics severe COVID-19 similar to humans (2021, January 19) retrieved January 19, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-01-nonhuman- primate-mimics-severe-covid -.html
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