BPRC protects monkeys against the coronavirus

23 Mar 2020 | Back to News, Publications and Annual Reports



Long-tailed macaques and rhesus macaques are sensitive to the new coronavirus, just like humans. That is why we took extensive precautions earlier this month to prevent accidental infections.

No guided tours for a while

Chinese scientists have shown that rhesus monkeys are susceptible to the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. This offers the opportunity to study the virus, but also means that we must protect our animals. In addition to following the RIVM guidelines, we do more. For example, we unfortunately had to decide to temporarily adjust our open-door policy. For the time being, therefore, there are no guided tours. And maintenance by external technicians is postponed as much as possible. All with the aim of protecting the animals against SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Research on coronavirus

"Keeping the virus away from our colonies is important," said our virologist Dr. Verschoor. Not only for the health of the animals, but also for SARS-CoV-2 studies. The Chinese study showed that rhesus monkeys can indeed be infected with the coronavirus, but also that they are protected if they are re-exposed to the virus. This means that there is a good chance that also humans will go through the infection only once.

That is good news in itself, but the knife cuts both ways. If you want to know if a vaccine works, you need to expose animals to the virus after vaccination. You can no longer infect animals that have already been exposed, so in that case you cannot tell whether the vaccine is protective. Once an animal is infected, it can therefore no longer be used for coronavirus research.

Healthy animals are crucial for good research.