The main reason to ascertain whether baboons are susceptible to infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the need to replace chimpanzees, which are endangered, as an animal model for undertaking research into the biology and host-virus interactions of HCV, and for developing a vaccine against this virus. A second reason is that baboons are a possible source of xenografts for human liver transplantation. We inoculated serum containing HCV into four Chacma baboons and monitored them for 52 weeks for evidence of infection. Serum was tested for antibody to HCV, HCV RNA, and aminotransferase concentrations at 2-week intervals for 26 weeks and thereafter at 4-week intervals. Liver tissue was examined at 28 and 52 weeks for histopathological changes and viral RNA, and at 52 weeks for viral particles using electron microscopy. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction assay was used to detect HCV RNA, and the results were confirmed by Southern hybridization. Serum aminotransferase concentrations remained within the normal range and liver histology was normal during the follow-up period. Passive transmission of anti-HCV to the baboons was observed during the first 4 weeks. HCV RNA was not detectable in any serum or liver sample and electron microscopy failed to reveal viral particles in liver tissue. In conclusion, we did not find Chacma baboons to be susceptible to infection with HCV, although we cannot deny that in an immunosuppressed liver transplant recipient, infection of a baboon xenograft might occur. Another animal model for HCV infection must be sought.
- Experimental models
- Hepatitis C virus