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Japan researchers succeed in reproducing COVID-19 symptoms in macaques

An X-ray image of a crab-eating macaque shows that the animal developed the same pneumonic symptoms as those of humans who contracted the novel coronavirus. (Image provided by Shiga University of Medical Science)

OTSU -- A group of researchers at Shiga University of Medical Science in this western Japan city announced on July 29 that they have succeeded in generating COVID-19 symptoms, such as a fever and pneumonia, in crab-eating macaques by infecting the animals with the novel coronavirus.

    The team led by professor Yasushi Ito, who specializes in pathology, said it is the first time in Japan to reproduce COVID-19 symptoms in primates other than human species. The group said the work will contribute to the early development of novel coronavirus vaccines and curative drugs as monkeys generally show reactions similar to those of humans.

    According to the group, researchers dropped liquid laced with the novel coronavirus onto the noses and mouths of three crab-eating macaques between May and June and observed the animals. All of the three macaques developed a fever the day after they were given the liquid, with one of them showing pneumonic symptoms in an X-ray test. However, the three only suffered mild symptoms and all of them recovered about 10 days later.

    The novel coronavirus was detected in the three animals for about one week after they were infected with the virus. In one of the monkeys, neutralizing antibody -- which works to protect animals from infection -- was detected in its blood.

    Professor Ito and other scientists filed for a patent on the viral culture and other methods on July 27. They plan to confirm the efficacy and other effects of the methods by administering vaccines under development by the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science in macaques from September.

    (Japanese original by Misaki Morokuma, Otsu Bureau)

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