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Saudi Arabia Reports Additional MERS Cases, Deaths; Study Examines Possible Treatment

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry on Friday “announced five new cases of infection of the [Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)] coronavirus,” Agence France-Presse reports. Saudi Arabia, which also reported three deaths from the virus, “is the country worst hit by MERS,” the news agency writes (9/7). On Saturday, the WHO said in a statement, “Globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 114 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 54 deaths” (9/7). “The WHO … has not recommended any travel restrictions but has urged health authorities worldwide to maintain vigilance. Recent travelers returning from the Middle East who develop severe respiratory infections should be tested for MERS-CoV, it said,” Reuters notes (Aboudi, 9/7).

In related news, researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have published a study in Nature Medicine showing “[a] combination of two well-known antiviral drugs protects monkeys against MERS and could potentially be used to save humans from the lethal disease,” the New York Times reports. “The ribavirin/interferon cocktail tested on the monkeys is currently used to treat chronic hepatitis C in humans,” the newspaper notes (McNeil, 9/8).