Identify the features of SARS-CoV-2 causing COVID-19 using a primate model

The study revealed viral features, such as immunosuppressive effects, that may aid the development of treatments and vaccines for COVID-19

Features of the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing COVID-19, which could be useful for vaccine development and treatment strategies, were identified using a non-human primate model developed at the Korea Research Institute of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology (KRIBB).

Work began in February of this year by a research team led by Dr. Jung Jo Hong at the National Primate Research Center (KRIBB), and resulted in the successful development of a major non-human model of COVID-19 infection, the fourth model reported worldwide, after China. And the Netherlands and the United States. The study results were part of a larger research project aimed at identifying key features of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, and testing the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments using a primate model.

In the primate study, vascular anomalies caused by infection, the underlying causes of death for COVID-19 infection, particularly in immunocompromised patients, SARS-CoV-2 replication sites within the human body, and the time pathway were investigated.

The research team showed, for the first time, that SARS-CoV-2 caused vasculitis and that endovascular inflammation persisted even 3 days after infection. Moreover, they confirmed immunosuppression, which is usually observed in immunocompromised patients, when the viral load increased sharply during COVID-19 infection (the first two days after infection).

This study appears on the cover of the Journal of Infectious Diseases, which is an international academic journal in the field of infectious diseases. An online release of the issue became available on August 3, 2020, and the article will be printed in the November 15 issue.

The research team observed that the virus multiplied rapidly in the upper and lower respiratory tracts of the experimental primates in the first two days after viral infection. After that, the viral load decreased rapidly, and the viral activity was not detected 7 days after infection.

These results are expected to provide new insights regarding the diagnostic challenges associated with a false positive test, that is, a positive result of the reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for asymptomatic.


The Korea Research Institute for Biological Sciences and Biotechnology (KRIBB), established in 1985, is the only government research institution specializing in the life sciences. KRIBB is dedicated to biotechnology research across a wide range of expertise, from basic studies of a basic understanding of the phenomena of life to applied studies as well as the new growth force of the national bio-economy.

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