Researchers Find MERS Antibodies Among Camels, Providing Clue To Virus’s Origin

“Camels may be a carrier of the mysterious virus that has infected at least 94 people in the Middle East and killed half of them, scientists are reporting,” the New York Times reports (Grady, 8/8). “Since the virus was first identified last September, there have been 94 illnesses, including 46 deaths, from MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome, mostly in Saudi Arabia,” the Associated Press notes, adding, “Aside from several clusters where the virus has likely spread between people, experts have largely been stumped as to how patients got infected” (Cheng, 8/8). “In a paper in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, a team led by Chantal Reusken from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands described antibodies specific to [the MERS coronavirus] found in the blood of all 50 Omani camels they tested,” according to the Financial Times, which notes the virus also was found in the same breed of camel stabled for many years in the Canary Islands. “The findings will help researchers probing whether the disease may have spread to humans via camels from an original ‘reservoir’ in bats” and “will also trigger fresh debate over infection control and a search for human cases, including in Oman, where no cases of the disease in humans have been reported,” the newspaper writes (Jack, 8/8). “‘Camels may be involved in (MERS) transmission but there could also be cows, goats, or something else involved,’ said Vincent Munster, a virologist at the National Institutes of Health, who co-wrote an accompanying commentary,” the AP adds (8/8).

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