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What animals are used in coronavirus research?

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

In the search for vaccines and treatments for Covid-19 animals can play an essential role in both basic research and testing.

Various animal species are currently being bred and used as suitable models for predicting what effects a vaccine or treatment for Coivd-19 may have on the human body.

EARA has put together some infographics that illustrate which are the most common animals being used at the present time in Covid-19 research across the world (see also the EARA map overview of research and the EARA infographics on Covid-19 vaccine development).

1. Mice play an essential role in both vaccine and drug development for Covid-19. Ordinary mice are not susceptible to the disease, so scientists breed genetically altered mice to make them susceptible to Covid-19.

2. Monkeys have a similar immune system to humans and are currently being used in many coronavirus studies across the world. The most common type of monkey used is the rhesus macaque, but scientists are also conducting studies using African greens and marmosets.

Video from the Tulane National Research Centre, USA showing the primate facilities and how they play a role in Covid-19 research.

3. Ferrets have been used to study Covid-19 because they show similar symptoms to the disease as humans, their lung physiology is also similar to ours, and they can spread the virus to other ferrets through the air. They are often used in studies of influenza for similar reasons.

4. Pigs are used in Covid-19 vaccine testing to help scientists better understand how safe and effective a new vaccine is and therefore whether it is suitable for human trials. These animals are also being used to test the effectiveness of new types of ventilators, before they are tested on humans.

5. Hamsters are being used to study the effects of the coronavirus as these animals are a good model to study the effect of the virus on the lungs. Hamsters are being used to study the effects of Covid-19 as they can display similar symptoms to humans when infected. This similarity makes also them a good model for studying transmission, the effects of the virus (particularly on the lungs), and suitable treatments.

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