Animal models of highly pathogenic RNA viralinfections: Hemorrhagic fever viruses

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Antiviral Research





Publication Date



A diverse group of highly pathogenic RNA viruses cause a severe multisystemic illness in humans commonly referred to as viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF). Although they can vary widely in clinical presentation, all VHFs share certain features that include intense fever, malaise, bleeding and shock. Effective antiviral therapies for most of the VHFs are lacking. Complicating development of intervention strategies is the relative infrequency and unpredictability of VHF outbreaks making human clinical trials extremely challenging or unfeasible. Therefore, animal models that can recapitulate human disease are essential to the development of effective antivirals and vaccines. In general, a good animal model of VHF will demonstrate systemic dispersion of the virus through infection of mononuclear phagocytes and dendritic cells, which induces the release of inflammatory mediators that increase vascular permeability and facilitate coagulation. The culmination of this process leads to significant loss of plasma volume and terminal hypovolemic shock. Although it is clear that nonhuman primate models are the most faithful to human disease, the more accessible and less costly rodent models, including those based on infection with related surrogate viruses, can reproduce certain components of VHF and can serve as suitable preclinical models for initial development of effective countermeasures. Such models are sufficient for testing of drugs that directly block viral replication, but may be inadequate for evaluating therapies that depend for their success on the activation or inhibition of host responses.


Antiviral Res. (2008) 78, 79-90