Two new studies explore containment options for camel-transmitted MERS

Two new studies explore containment options for camel-transmitted MERS.
While camels are useful and beloved creatures, they also harbor the ability to transmit to humans communicable forms of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, also called MERS-Cov, which a pair of new studies are exploring.

The first study focuses on the types of MERS-Cov that are common to and communicable between humans and camels. This study has identified five such strains of MERS-Cov to date and is exploring the cellular composition of each strain to determine common factors and pathogens in the search for antibodies and vaccines.

The second study explores a particular vaccine that has been shown to limit the spread of a most common type of MERS-Cov; in the latter study, links to a common vaccine and information about characteristics of all types of MERS-Cov are being explored.

A specific breed of camel has been linked to MERS-Cov transmission, and study of its genetics while it is infected with MERS-Cov is yielding usable data about the disease and its links to transmission between camels and humans. While complex animal genetic challenges and the changeability of pathogens are barriers to advancement of the study, it has been shown that the Arabian camel -- from a sampling of 1,200 such animals -- is a common carrier of the most troublesome form of MERS-Cov to humans. Vaccine research has honed in on this breed of camel and is advancing, but a concern, researcher Jamal Sabir said, is “the wide range of COVs and their aptitudes for infecting multiple species suggest more variations will emerge.”

The need for continuing research and containment strategies has grown urgent. Limiting human and camel interaction is not a practical solution, nor is isolating every camel that appears less than optimally healthy. Reporting illness, seeking medical care for sick camels, as well as the affected handlers of these camels, and education about MERS-Cov are the most effective preventative measures while research is ongoing.

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