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Coronavirus Infection of the Central Nervous System: Animal Models in the Time of COVID-19


Naturally occurring coronaviral infections have been studied for several decades in the context of companion and production animals, and central nervous system involvement is a common finding, particularly in cats with feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). These companion and production animal coronaviruses have many similarities to recent human pandemic-associated coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV2 (COVID-19). Neurological involvement is being increasingly recognized as an important clinical presentation in human COVID-19 patients, often associated with para-infectious processes, and potentially with direct infection within the CNS. Recent breakthroughs in the treatment of coronaviral infections in cats, including neurological FIP, have utilized antiviral drugs similar to those currently in human COVID-19 clinical trials. Differences in specific coronavirus and host factors are reflected in major variations in incidence and mechanisms of CNS coronaviral infection and pathology between species; however, broad lessons relating to treatment of coronavirus infection present within the CNS may be informative across species.

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