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J Comp Pathol. 2008 May;138(4):171-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jcpa.2007.12.005. Epub 2008 Mar 17.

Pathological changes in masked palm civets experimentally infected by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus.

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National Key Laboratory of Veterinary Biotechnology, Harbin Veterinary Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Harbin 150001, China.


Masked palm civets are highly susceptible to infection with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV). Infected animals become less aggressive and develop pyrexia, lethargy and diarrhoea. The present study describes the spectrum of histopathological changes in the lung, spleen, lymph node, liver, small intestine, kidney and cerebrum of civets infected experimentally with SARS-CoV. In-situ hybridization (ISH) with probes specific for the RNA polymerase gene demonstrated viral RNA in the lung, small intestine and cerebrum only. In-situ labelling was employed in order to demonstrate cellular apoptosis in the cerebrum, but there was no evidence of apoptosis within the myocardium. These results indicate that SARS-CoV causes multi-organ pathology in civets, similar to that observed in human SARS patients. These parallels suggest that civets may be used as an animal model of this infection to gain insight into the pathogenesis of SARS and for evaluation of candidate vaccines and antiviral drugs.

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