Using the ground squirrel (Marmota bobak) as an animal model to assess monkeypox drug efficacy.
In experiments to study the sensitivity of ground squirrels (Marmota bobak) to monkeypox virus (MPXV) at intranasal challenge, expressed pox-like clinical symptoms (hyperthermia, lymphadenitis, skin rash all over the body and mucous membranes and others) were observed 7-9 days post-infection. The 50% infective dose (ID50) of MPXV for these marmots determined by the presence of clinical signs of the disease was 2.2 log10 PFU. Some diseased marmots (about 40%) died 13-22 days post-infection, and the mortality rate was weakly dependent on MPXV infective dose. Lungs with trachea were primary target organs of marmots challenged intranasally (with ∼30 ID50). The pathogen got to secondary target organs of the animals mainly via the lymphatic way (with replication in bifurcation lymph nodes). Lungs with trachea, nasal mucosa and skin were the organs where the maximum MPXV amounts accumulated in these animals. Evidences of the pathogen presence and replication were revealed in these and subcutaneously infected marmots in the traditional primary target cells for MPXV (macrophages and respiratory tract epitheliocytes), as well as in some other cells (endotheliocytes, plasmocytes, fibroblasts, reticular and smooth muscle cells). Our use of this animal species to assess the antiviral efficacy of some drugs demonstrated the agreement of the obtained results with those described in scientific literature, which opens up the prospects of using marmots as animal models for monkeypox to develop therapeutic and preventive anti-smallpox drugs.