The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 emerged in late 2019, rapidly reached pandemic status, and has maintained global ubiquity through the emergence of variants of concern. Efforts to develop animal models have mostly fallen short of recapitulating severe disease, diminishing their utility for research focusing on severe disease pathogenesis and life-saving medical countermeasures. We tested whether route of experimental infection substantially changes COVID-19 disease characteristics in two species of nonhuman primates (Macaca mulatta; rhesus macaques; RM, Chlorocebus atheiops; African green monkeys; AGM). Species-specific cohorts were experimentally infected with SARS-CoV-2 by either direct mucosal (intratracheal + intranasal) instillation or small particle aerosol in route-discrete subcohorts. Both species demonstrated analogous viral loads in all compartments by either exposure route although the magnitude and duration of viral loading was marginally greater in AGMs than RMs. Clinical onset was nearly immediate (+1dpi) in the mucosal exposure cohort whereas clinical signs and cytokine responses in aerosol exposure animals began +7dpi. Pathologies conserved in both species and both exposure modalities include pulmonary myeloid cell influx, development of pleuritis, and extended lack of regenerative capacity in the pulmonary compartment. Demonstration of conserved pulmonary pathology regardless of species and exposure route expands our understanding of how SARS-CoV-2 infection may lead to ARDS and/or functional lung damage and demonstrates the near clinical response of the nonhuman primate model for anti-fibrotic therapeutic evaluation studies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology