Last September, 17 people were infected by an emerging coronavirus in the Middle East and Europe. Eleven died.

Researchers quickly needed to see how the virus caused disease so they could evaluate potential vaccines and antiviral treatments. Scientists at Hamilton's Rocky Mountain Laboratories worked with rhesus macaque monkeys to try to replicate the way the virus spreads in humans.

Scientists at the Hamilton facility were sent coronavirus samples from the Netherlands. With those samples, they successfully established a nonhuman primate model of infection in December 2012, according to a news release from the National Institutes of Health. Vincent Munster, Ph.D., chief of the virus ecology unit, is leading the team studying the coronavirus. The model will greatly help further study of the emerging disease.

The signs of the disease include reduced appetite, a fever, increased respiratory rate, a cough and goose bumps. In both humans and monkeys the infection settles deep in the lungs, causing pneumonia. It seems to be in the same genus as the coronavirus that causes the severe acute respiratory syndrome - SARS.

A letter describing the study appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine. It was written by Vincent J. Munster, Ph.D., Emmie de Wit, Ph.D., and Heinz Feldmann, M.D. of the lab in Hamilton.

The Rocky Mountain Laboratories operate as part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.