Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


MERS virus widespread in Saudi Arabian camels

Coronavirus has been infecting the animals for at least 20 years

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

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!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht ARTORG and Inselspital develop artificial pancreas
26.11.2015 | Universitätsspital Bern

nachricht Laboratory study: Scientists from Cologne explore a new approach to prevent newborn epilepsies
24.11.2015 | Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen e.V. (DZNE)

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Using sphere packing models to explain the structure of forests

26.11.2015 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Dimensionality transition in a newly created material

26.11.2015 | Materials Sciences

Revealing glacier flow with animated satellite images

26.11.2015 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>