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Explaining all the animal models of COVID-19 made around the world

Working with SARS-CoV-2 at the High Biosafety Unit of IRTA-CReSA. Author: IRTA (CC BY-NC 4.0)
Working with SARS-CoV-2 at the High Biosafety Unit of IRTA-CReSA. Source: IRTA (CC BY-NC 4.0)

An article published in the journal Nature reviews all the animal models of COVID-19 that have been developed throughout the year to date.

The authors of this review are researchers members of the working group on animal models of COVID-19 of the World Health Organization (WHO), among which are researchers Júlia Vergara-Alert and Joaquim Segalés.

In the article, which is a review published in Nature, you can consult all the studies done with different animal species that have been done around the world and SARS-CoV-2 to assess their susceptibility to infection. The review includes animal models up to a total of 11 species, making this article very useful information to guide the various research teams around the world involved in the development of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.

Among the animal models mentioned in the article, the transgenic mouse model, the golden hamster model, the ferret and the non-human primate models as animals that are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 and therefore stand out , would be candidate models to better understand the disease. Studies have also been done to see if other animals could be susceptible to the virus. Cats and minks can become infected but generally do not develop the disease, although they can transmit the infection to other animals in contact. In contrast, dogs, chickens, ducks and pigs are not susceptible to the virus.

Currently, the IRTA-CReSA coronavirus research team, led by researchers Júlia Vergara-Alert and Joaquim Segalés, also professor at the UAB Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, is working with transgenic mouse and golden hamster models to understand the disease, and to test for possible vaccines and antiviral molecules. This work is being carried out together with the consortium that makes up the AIDS Research Institute (IrsiCaixa) and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, with the support of the company Grifols.

In addition, the team recently published an article showing that pigs are not infected with SARS-CoV-2, and therefore cannot be used as an animal model to study COVID-19. However, pigs could serve as a model of immunogenicity, that is, to test whether vaccine products can elicit an adequate immune response.

Animal models are used in the preclinical stages of drug and vaccine development, that is, in those pre-test stages in humans, which are called clinical stages. Sharing this information with the entire scientific community is a much faster way to find effective treatment or vaccines to fight the pandemic.


Muñoz-Fontela, C., Dowling, W. E., Funnell, S. G., Gsell, P. S., Balta, X. R., Albrecht, R. A., … & Qin, C. (2020). Animal models for COVID-19Nature, 1-9.

Vergara‐Alert, J., Rodon, J., Carrilo, J., Te, N., Izquierdo‐Useros, N., Rodríguez de la Concepción, M. L., Ávila‐Nieto, C., Guallar, V., Valencia, A., Cantero, G., Blanco,J., Clotet, B., Bensaid, A., Segalés, J. (2020). Pigs are not susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection but are a model for viral immunogenicity studies.