Researchers have found that marmosets could be used as an animal model to study the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, also known as MERS-CoV. They observed that marmosets carry the same variant of a cell surface protein (DPP4) that MERS-CoV uses to invade human cells.

This means that marmosets infected by MERS-CoV get as sick as humans; by contrast, other common animal models such as mice, ferrets and hamsters carry a different DPP4 protein that seems to be resistant to the virus.

MERS-CoV was first reported in 2012, causing fever, cough, and can lead to death. No treatment currently exists, but the availability of the marmoset model could help researchers develop countermeasures against it.

Original research paper published in PLOS Pathogens on August 21, 2014.

Names and affiliations of selected authors

Heinz Feldmann, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; University of Manitoba, Manitoba