In DepthCOVID 19

From mice to monkeys, animals studied for coronavirus answers

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Science  17 Apr 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6488, pp. 221-222
DOI: 10.1126/science.368.6488.221

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  • RE: Pigs must enter the rat race to coronavirus answers
    • Michael Sturek, Professor, Indiana University School of Medicine
    • Other Contributors:
      • Peter Heegaard, Professor, Technical University of Denmark
      • Graham Belsham, Professor, University of Copenhagen
      • Mouhamad Alloosh, Associate Research Professor, Indiana University School of Medicine

    Cohen’s article emphasizes the compelling need for preclinical models for COVID-19 that reproduce faithfully the human disease. Richardson et al. (1) reported in 5700 patients admitted to New York hospitals that 88 percent had two or more comorbidities, the three most prevalent conditions being hypertension (57%), obesity (42%), and diabetes (34%). Collectively, these comorbidities are part of a constellation of factors, i.e. metabolic syndrome (MetS), having persistent inflammation that makes a direct metabolic link to the almost 10-fold greater mortality of these COVID-19 patients (2). Although healthy nonhuman primates are a frontrunner in the race to coronavirus answers (3), finding or creating monkeys with comorbidities will be expensive and time-consuming.

    Pigs must be in the race as a model for COVID-19 patients with comorbidities. Pigs are highly relevant to human medicine because they closely mimic human anatomy, physiology, and immunology, and develop robust MetS and cardiorespiratory disease (4). Although SARS-CoV-2 inoculation of pigs had minimal effects (5), the young, healthy pigs did not have comorbidities. Hypothetically, porcine respiratory coronavirus infection (6) of pigs with robust MetS, such as Ossabaw miniature pigs (4), may increase morbidity and mortality, similar to COVID-19 patients with MetS. Studies in this preclinical model could accelerate coronavirus research on basic disease mechanisms and therapeutics for patients with comorbiditie...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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