Two novel coronaviruses have emerged to cause severe disease in humans. While bats may be the primary reservoir for both viruses, SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) likely crossed into humans from civets in China, and MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has been transmitted from camels in the Middle East. Unlike SARS-CoV that resolved within a year, continued introductions of MERS-CoV present an on-going public health threat. Animal models are needed to evaluate countermeasures against emerging viruses. With SARS-CoV, several animal species were permissive to infection. In contrast, most laboratory animals are refractory or only semi-permissive to infection with MERS-CoV. This host-range restriction is largely determined by sequence heterogeneity in the MERS-CoV receptor. We describe animal models developed to study coronaviruses, with a focus on host-range restriction at the level of the viral receptor and discuss approaches to consider in developing a model to evaluate countermeasures against MERS-CoV.
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