News Release

NIH scientists establish new monkey model of severe MERS-CoV disease

Marmosets may provide best option yet for testing potential treatments, study suggests

Peer-Reviewed Publication

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

MERS-CoV Particles

image: MERS-CoV particles (yellow) attach to camel tissue cells. view more 

Credit: NIAID


National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists have found that Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection in marmosets closely mimics the severe pneumonia experienced by people infected with MERS-CoV, giving scientists the best animal model yet for testing potential treatments. Researchers at NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) used marmosets after predicting in computer models that the animals could be infected with MERS-CoV based on the binding properties of the virus.

The same NIAID group in December 2012 developed the first animal model of MERS-CoV infection using rhesus macaques. That model has proven difficult to use for evaluating potential treatments because it mimics mild to moderate human disease, and the animals quickly recover from infection. Several research groups are working to develop mouse models of MERS-CoV infection, but they have yet to establish a severe disease model.

The MERS outbreak, which began in 2012, continues throughout the Middle East. Since the outbreak began, NIAID researchers have focused on understanding how the virus causes disease and how it can be treated effectively. As of July 23rd, the World Health Organization has reported a total of 837 human cases of MERS-CoV infection, including at least 291 deaths.



D Falzarano et al. Infection with MERS-CoV Causes Lethal Pneumonia in the Common Marmoset. PLoS Pathogens DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004250 (2014).

N van Doremalen et al. Host species restriction of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus through its receptor dipeptidyl peptidase 4. Journal of Virology DOI: 10.1128/JVI.00676-14 (2014).


Vincent Munster, Ph.D., chief of the Virus Ecology Unit in NIAID's Laboratory of Virology, is available for interviews.


To schedule interviews, please contact Ken Pekoc, (301) 402-1663,

NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at

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