MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

Research links dromedary camels to MERS coronavirus

Approval granted for first-in-human study of MERS vaccine | Courtesy of cdc.gov
A international research team is advancing work that proves the Middle Eastern dromedary camel, long used for transportation and hauling, also transports and transmits several strains of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.

The team, comprised of researchers from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and mainland China, is examining the dromedary camel for the 229E coronavirus, known to comprise 1,300 cases, 500 of which have proven fatal to humans since 2012. The primary problem is bacterial evolution, meaning the disease takes one form while carried by a camel, is transmitted to humans in contact with an infected camel, then assumes a new form once affecting a human carrier -- leading to additional human-to-human transmission.

Questions of disease severity and transmission rate in the study have their origin in the geographic location of the camel. Those local to Saudi Arabia, for example, have a MERS infection rate equal to that of a camel imported to Saudi Arabia from Africa or Dubai. This means the disease is not isolated to a geographic region, thereby directing research more toward biological abnormalities and susceptibility among groups of camels exhibiting symptoms more frequently than another group of camels.

Research suggests exact causes of MERS disease and transmission are not yet clear -- but are advancing. Chiefly important are diligent reporting of illness among camels and prompt care for affected camels and humans. Additionally, new vaccine candidates are emerging as this research continues, with candidates likely inside of three or four months.

Organizations in this story

University of Hong Kong Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine 21 Sassoon Rd Sandy Bay, Hong Kong Island

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