TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

FAO says it's too early to draw conclusions on source of MERS-CoV

More analysis is needed to determine the possible role of animals in the spread of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said on Friday.

Coronaviruses typically affect birds and mammals and only a limited number cause more than mild diseases. The MERS-CoV causes acute respiratory illness in humans and it has not been shown to cause disease in animals.

The FAO said current evidence is not enough to identify a specific source of the MERS-CoV.

"It is not yet clear how people are becoming infected, or where the virus might come from," Juan Lubroth, the FAO's chief veterinary officer, said. "We do not have enough information to identify with certainty the virus' origin. Confirming the source and mechanisms of transmission and spread are key to developing ways to reduce the risks posed by this virus to humans or other countries."

While a recent study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal found antibodies for MERS-CoV or a similar virus in camel blood samples, the only way to know with any certainty if the virus affecting humans is the same as the one affecting camels is to isolate the virus in different species and compare them genetically. Currently, the MERS-CoV was only isolated in humans.

The FAO is working with national authorities, the World Health Organization and the World Organisation for Animal Health to determine which animal species might serve as a reservoir for MERS-CoV. FAO urged countries to invest in efforts to better understand the sources of viruses and the mechanisms of transmission and spread. Better information may prevent people and animals from being exposed to viruses.