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

Alexandra Melton, Lara A. Doyle-Meyers, Robert V. Blair, Cecily Midkiff, Hunter J. Melton, Kasi Russell-Lodrigue, Pyone P. Aye, Faith Schiro, Marissa Fahlberg, Dawn Szeltner, Skye Spencer, Brandon J. Beddingfield, Kelly Goff, Nadia Golden, Toni Penney, Breanna Picou, Krystle Hensley, Kristin E. Chandler, Jessica A. Plante, Kenneth S. PlanteScott C. Weaver, Chad J. Roy, James A. Hoxie, Hongmei Gao, David C. Montefiori, Joseph L. Mankowski, Rudolf P. Bohm, Jay Rappaport, Nicholas J. Maness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1010162
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology


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