Deadly MERS virus detected in camels

December 17, 2013
Deadly MERS virus detected in camels
But it's not clear what role animals play in its transmission to humans.

(HealthDay)—Scientists say they have the first definitive proof that a deadly respiratory virus in the Middle East infects camels in addition to humans.

The finding may help researchers find ways to control the spread of the .

Using gene sequencing, the research team found that three camels from a site where two people contracted Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS) were also infected with the virus.

The location was a small livestock barn in Qatar. In October, the 61-year-old barn owner was diagnosed with MERS, followed by a 23-year-old man who worked at the barn.

Within a week of the barn owner's diagnosis, samples were collected from 14 dromedary camels at the barn. The samples were sent to laboratories in the Netherlands for genetic analysis and antibody testing.

The genetic analyses confirmed the presence of MERS in three camels. Genetically, the viruses in the camels were very similar—but not identical—to those that infected the barn owner and worker.

All 14 camels had antibodies to MERS, which suggests that the virus had been circulating among them for some time, enabling most of them to develop immunity against infection, according to the study published Dec. 17 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

While the findings provide proof that camels can be infected with MERS, it's not possible to determine whether the camels infected the two men or vice versa, said the researchers from the Netherlands and Qatar.

It's also possible that the men and the were infected by another as-yet unknown source such as cattle, sheep, goats or wildlife, the researchers added. Further investigation into the infections is under way.

"An understanding of the role of animals in the transmission of (MERS) is urgently needed to inform control efforts," Neil Ferguson and Maria Van Kerkhove, of Imperial College London in England, wrote in an accompanying editorial in the journal. "This virus can spread from person to person, sometimes causing substantial outbreaks, but whether the virus is capable of self-sustained (i.e., epidemic) human-to-human transmission is unknown."

If self-sustained transmission in people is not yet under way, the researchers said, intensive control and risk-reduction measures targeting affected animal species and their handlers might eliminate the virus from the human population. "Conversely, if (animal) exposure causes only a small fraction of human infections, then even intensive veterinary control efforts would have little effect on cases in people," they concluded.

Explore further: Scientists find mystery virus in camels in Qatar

More information: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about MERS.

Related Stories

Scientists find mystery virus in camels in Qatar

November 29, 2013
Health officials say they have found a mysterious respiratory virus in a herd of camels in Qatar linked to two human cases of the disease.

Qatar reports three camel MERS infections

November 28, 2013
Qatar said on Thursday that three camels have been found infected with the MERS coronavirus, in the first case of animals contracting the SARS-like virus in the Gulf state.

Signs of MERS coronavirus found in dromedary camels

August 8, 2013
Researchers searching for signs of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in livestock animals have found antibodies specific to the new virus in dromedary camels. The research, published in The Lancet Infectious ...

Qatar announces second MERS virus death

September 8, 2013
A Qatari man has died from the MERS coronavirus, becoming the second fatality from the SARS-like virus to be recorded in the Gulf state, health authority said Saturday.

Qatar announces third MERS death

November 19, 2013
An expatriate living in Qatar had died after he contracted MERS, bringing to three the number of deaths from the coronavirus in the Gulf state, health authorities said Tuesday.

Qatar announces fourth MERS death

November 22, 2013
An expatriate living in Qatar has died of MERS, bringing to four the number of deaths in the Gulf state from the coronavirus, health authorities said on Friday.

Recommended for you

New long-acting approach for malaria therapy developed

January 22, 2018
A new study, published in Nature Communications, conducted by the University of Liverpool and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine highlights a new 'long acting' medicine for the prevention of malaria.

Virus shown to be likely cause of mystery polio-like illness

January 22, 2018
A major review by UNSW researchers has identified strong evidence that a virus called Enterovirus D68 is the cause of a mystery polio-like illness that has paralysed children in the US, Canada and Europe.

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows; coughing and sneezing not required

January 18, 2018
It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new University of Maryland-led study released today. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.