MERS virus from Camels?

Published August 11th, 2013 - 09:11 GMT
For Illustrative Purposes (AFP PHOTO / AWAD AWAD)
For Illustrative Purposes (AFP PHOTO / AWAD AWAD)

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it’s investigating the results of the Netherlands National Health Institute study, which found the existence of the coronavirus in camels. 

WHO’s experts are making more tests to verify that through cooperation with the Institute. 

In a study to determine which animal was the source of transmission, scientists concluded there is strong evidence that the virus is highly spread among dromedary Arabic camels.

Zeyad Memish, secretary-general for preventive medicine affairs in the Ministry of Health, said the ministry has subjected samples from camels and sheep to lab tests to determine its connection with transmitting MERS Middle East. 

The results will be announced after tests have been completed. The ministry cooperated with the labs of an American university to conduct these tests. 

Khalid Marghalani, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said the Public Health Department is following up on the development of the MERS virus by monitoring new research. 

The Middle East Respiratory System Corona virus MERS has symptoms of coughing, fever and pneumonia found in the Gulf, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain. WHO says it has 94 confirmed cases and 46 deaths, mostly in Saudi Arabia. 

“With continuing emergence of human cases without any indications as to the whereabouts of the infections, except those who caught it from other patients, all indications point to the dromedary Arabic camels,” said Chantal Ruskin, who supervised the study at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in Beltoven, Netherlands. “There are various mixings between humans and these animals that might transmit the disease.”

British scientists discovered part of the genome sequence, drew the development and evolution tree of the virus, and came up with the conclusion that it is connected to a virus that was discovered in bats. Ruskin said additional work is being performed by scientists in Germany, which showed the virus might have come via an animal carrier.

“It seems that a major advance needs to be made in public health to fight the spread of MERS,” said Benjamin Newman, a British microbiology expert at Reading University.

“The biggest mystery has been how people are affected by the virus from bats, and why does that happen in the Middle East and through showing that the camel has a history of being infected by injuries similar to MERS, and scientists may have found the answer to the two questions at the same time,” he said.

The Dutch team, which published its study in the Lancet stated that 349 different blood samples of cow, sheep, goats and certain animals linked especially to the dromedary camels were tested.

These animals included some from Oman, Holland, Spain and Chile, because these countries didn’t register any cases of corona virus. There were no antibodies in the 160 animals including cattle, sheep and goats from the Netherlands and Spain. 
However, antibodies were found in all 50 samples taken from camels in Oman.

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