As scientists around the world race to develop effective drugs or potential vaccines for COVID-19, they have been hindered by the limited number of laboratory mice that are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have come up with a mouse model of COVID-19 that replicates the illness in humans. They believe that approach could be adopted by other scientists to speed up the testing of treatments and vaccines for the disease.
Their work is described in a paper published online today in the journal Cell.
"There's been a huge push to develop vaccines and therapeutics as quickly as possible, and since animal models have been limited, these investigational drugs and vaccines have been put directly into humans, and many of them haven't panned out," said principal investigator Michael S. Diamond, the Herbert S. Gasser Professor of Medicine and an expert on viral infections, in a statement.
Beyond testing drugs and vaccines, scientists want to use the model with mice bred to develop conditions such as diabetes or chronic lung disease in order to discover why some people develop life-threatening cases of COVID-19 while others recover easily.
"Mice are useful because you can study a large number of them and observe the course of the disease and the immune response in a way that is hard to do in people. It would be more cost-effective and efficient and safer for people if we could get more information about how these potential drugs and vaccines work and how effective they are before we move to more challenging non-human primate and ultimately human studies," he explained.