The shedding of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) into saliva droplets plays a critical role in viral transmission. The source of high viral loads in saliva, however, remains elusive. Here we investigate the early target cells of infection in the entire array of respiratory tissues in Chinese macaques after intranasal inoculations with a single-cycle pseudotyped virus and a pathogenic SARS-CoV. We found that angiotensin-converting enzyme 2-positive (ACE2+) cells were widely distributed in the upper respiratory tract, and ACE2+ epithelial cells lining salivary gland ducts were the early target cells productively infected. Our findings also have implications for SARS-CoV early diagnosis and prevention
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