The coronavirus responsible for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is prevalent in camels throughout Saudi Arabia and has been around for at least 20 years, according to a study to be published on February 25 in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.
"Our study shows the MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is widespread," says senior study author W. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University, New York. "Adult camels were more likely to have antibodies to the virus while juveniles were more likely to have active virus. This indicates that infection in camels typically occurs in early life, and that if people get the virus from camels the most likely source is young camels."
MERS, a serious viral respiratory illness, has been identified in 182 people from 2012 through Feb. 7, according to the World Health Organization; 79 people have died from the condition. While most infections have occurred in Saudi Arabia, the origin of disease, in most cases, has remained unknown. Efforts to identify an animal source of infection have focused on bats and camels. The first known case of MERS was in a Saudi Arabian man who had four pet camels.
In the study, investigators from the United States and Saudi Arabia conducted a comprehensive survey of dromedary camels throughout Saudi Arabia. They collected blood samples and rectal and nasal swabs from camels, sheep and goats in November and December of 2013. Using mobile laboratory equipment, they tested blood samples for antibodies reactive with MERS-CoV, and the swabs and blood for active virus. They also analyzed archived blood samples from dromedary camels taken from 1992 through 2010.
Overall, 74% of camels sampled countrywide had antibodies to MERS-CoV. More than 80% of adult camels throughout the country had antibodies to the virus, while in camels age two or younger the prevalence ranged from 90% in the east to 5% in the southwest. Antibodies to the virus were seen in camel serum samples dating back to 1992, which strongly suggests that either MERS-CoV or a closely related virus has been circulating in the Saudi Arabian animals for at least two decades.
The researchers also found that active virus was frequently detected in nasal swabs in 35% of young camels and 15% of adult camels countrywide. It was less frequently found in rectal swabs and not in blood, indicating that the virus most likely is spread by respiratory secretions.
While they speculate that camels are potential reservoirs for human transmission, the authors say the current study does not prove that. "Our findings suggest that continuous, longer-term surveillance will be necessary to determine the dynamics of virus circulation in dromedary camel populations."
Lead authors for the paper were Abdulaziz Alagaili of King Saud University and the Saudi Wildlife Authority in Riyadh and Thomas Briese of Columbia University.
mBio® is an open access online journal published by the American Society for Microbiology to make microbiology research broadly accessible. The focus of the journal is on rapid publication of cutting-edge research spanning the entire spectrum of microbiology and related fields. It can be found online at http://mbio.asm.org.
The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 39,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide.
Jim Sliwa | EurekAlert!
Nanoparticle versus cancer
21.07.2016 | Lomonosov Moscow State University
Titanium + gold = new gold standard for artificial joints
21.07.2016 | Rice University
Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.
Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...
Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases
Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...
Scaffolding and specialised workers help with the delivery – Heidelberg biochemists gain new insights into biogenesis
A type of scaffolding on which specialised workers ply their trade helps in the manufacturing process of the two subunits from which the ribosome – the protein...
Scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München have developed a new mass spectrometry imaging method which, for the first time, makes it possible to analyze hundreds of metabolites in fixed tissue samples. Their findings, published in the journal Nature Protocols, explain the new access to metabolic information, which will offer previously unexploited potential for tissue-based research and molecular diagnostics.
In biomedical research, working with tissue samples is indispensable because it permits insights into the biological reality of patients, for example, in...
Chemists at the University of Basel have succeeded in using computer simulations to elucidate transient structures in proteins. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, the researchers set out how computer simulations of details at the atomic level can be used to understand proteins’ modes of action.
Using computational chemistry, it is possible to characterize the motion of individual atoms of a molecule. Today, the latest simulation techniques allow...
15.07.2016 | Event News
15.07.2016 | Event News
11.07.2016 | Event News
22.07.2016 | Information Technology
22.07.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
22.07.2016 | Life Sciences