Ferrets infected with Bundibugyo virus or Ebola virus recapitulate important aspects of human filovirus disease

Robert Kozak, Shihua He, Andrea Kroeker, Marc Antoine de La Vega, Jonathan Audet, Gary Wong, Chantel Urfano, Kym Antonation, Carissa Embury-Hyatt, Gary P. Kobinger, Xiangguo Qiu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bundibugyo virus (BDBV) is the etiological agent of a severe hemorrhagic fever in humans with a case-fatality rate ranging from 25 to 36%. Despite having been known to the scientific and medical communities for almost 1 decade, there is a dearth of studies on this pathogen due to the lack of a small animal model. Domestic ferrets are commonly used to study other RNA viruses, including members of the order Mononegavirales. To investigate whether ferrets were susceptible to filovirus infections, ferrets were challenged with a clinical isolate of BDBV. Animals became viremic within 4 days and succumbed to infection between 8 and 9 days, and a petechial rash was observed with moribund ferrets. Furthermore, several hallmarks of human filoviral disease were recapitulated in the ferret model, including substantial decreases in lymphocyte and platelet counts and dysregulation of key biochemical markers related to hepatic/renal function, as well as coagulation abnormalities. Virological, histopathological, and immunohistochemical analyses confirmed uncontrolled BDBV replication in the major organs. Ferrets were also infected with Ebola virus (EBOV) to confirm their susceptibility to another filovirus species and to potentially establish a virus transmission model. Similar to what was seen with BDBV, important hallmarks of human filoviral disease were observed in EBOV-infected ferrets. This study demonstrates the potential of this small animal model for studying BDBV and EBOV using wild-type isolates and will accelerate efforts to understand filovirus pathogenesis and transmission as well as the development of specific vaccines and antivirals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9209-9223
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number20
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


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