The MERS coronavirus is currently spreading very rapidly in the Arab world. An infection could affect human beings as well as camels, and has already cost more than 100 human lives. Scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna show that the MERS coronaviruses in man and camels from a single region are almost identical. Their conclusions indicate transmission of the virus from animals to man, and were published in the Journal Eurosurveillance.
The so-called Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus was first found in June 2012 in a patient from Saudi Arabia, who suffered from severe pneumonia. Since this time more than 300 persons have developed an infection, of whom about a third died. The fact that the Arabian camel is the origin of the infectious disease has been confirmed recently. The transmission pathways of the viruses, however, have not been clear until now.
Viruses in humans and camels from one region are identical
Virologists Norbert Nowotny and Jolanta Kolodziejek from the Institute of Virology are investigating the transmission pathways of the MERS coronavirus. They found that viruses from infected humans and Arabian camels from the same geographical region have nearly identical RNA sequences. "This indicates transmission between animals and man. The process is referred to as zoonosis. With this knowledge we can specifically react to the spread of the virus. Vaccinations of camels are currently being discussed. We will thus be able to halt the spread of the virus," said Nowotny.
Virus RNA differs from region to region
The scientists investigated nasal and conjunctival swabs, taken from 76 camels in Oman. In five camels they found the MERS coronavirus and compared its RNA with those of MERS coronavirus from Qatar and Egypt. The analysis showed that the viruses differ from region to region. "This means that there is no specific 'camel MERS coronavirus strain', but that one virus infects both, camels and humans," says study coordinator Norbert Nowotny.
Transmission pathway through nose and eyes
Virus levels were surprisingly high in the nasal mucosa and conjunctiva of camels. Therefore the scientists presume that the transmission pathway from animals to humans most likely occurs through these contact sites, especially through nasal discharge.
In man the virus causes severe pneumonia and renal failure while camels show no or very little symptoms (in some cases nasal discharge). So far all infections in humans have occurred in the Arabian Peninsula. However, some developed the disease after they returned to their native country, of whom eleven were from Europe. MERS coronavirus is also transmitted from one human to another, for instance in families, in the community, or through contact between patients and medical staff.
MERS and SARS coronaviruses are relatives
MERS coronavirus is closely related to SARS coronavirus. SARS originated in China and claimed 800 lives worldwide in 2002 and 2003. "While the SARS coronavirus probably crossed the species barrier only once by passing from bats to humans, we may presume that the MERS coronavirus is being constantly transmitted from camels to humans," explains Nowotny.
The fact that MERS coronaviruses infect camels was shown by Nowotny and his colleagues in an earlier study, in which the scientists detected antibodies against the virus in the animals. The link to the study: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1473309913701646 The current genetic analysis of MERS coronarviruses permits more exact conclusions.
The paper “Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in dromedary camels, Oman, 2013” by Nowotny N. and Kolodziejek J. was published in the Journal Eurosurveillance. http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=20781
About the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
The University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna in Austria is one of the leading academic and research institutions in the field of Veterinary Sciences in Europe. About 1,200 employees and 2,300 students work on the campus in the north of Vienna which also houses five university clinics and various research sites. Outside of Vienna the university operates Teaching and Research Farms. http://www.vetmeduni.ac.at
Prof. Norbert Nowotny
Institute of Virology
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
Science Communication | Public Relations
University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna)
Veterinärplatz 1, 1210 Wien
T +43 1 25077-1153
Dr. Susanna Kautschitsch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
How to become a T follicular helper cell
31.07.2015 | La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology
Heating and cooling with light leads to ultrafast DNA diagnostics
31.07.2015 | University of California - Berkeley
Using ultracold atoms trapped in light crystals, scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the Weizmann Institute observe a novel state of matter that never thermalizes.
What happens if one mixes cold and hot water? After some initial dynamics, one is left with lukewarm water—the system has thermalized to a new thermal...
Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.
The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...
Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.
Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight
A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...
Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.
By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...
23.07.2015 | Event News
10.07.2015 | Event News
25.06.2015 | Event News
31.07.2015 | Trade Fair News
31.07.2015 | Transportation and Logistics
31.07.2015 | Physics and Astronomy