Friday, June 12, 2015

Juvenile camels 'key source' of Mers

An international team looked for evidence of current or past infection in more than 800 dromedary camels.
They found that more than 90% of animals became infected by the age of two and virus shedding was more common in calves than in adults.

The scientists argue that changes in animal husbandry may reduce the occurrence of human Mers infections.
The study is published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
The first reports of human Mers coronavirus infection emerged in June 2012, although cases are likely to have occurred before then.
More than 1,100 cases have been recorded and more than 400 people have died. Infections have been seen in 25 countries across Europe, Asia and Africa, but Saudi Arabia has experienced the biggest burden.
Because of its devastating effects in humans scientists have been searching for the source of the virus, to try to identify ways in which human infections can be prevented.
Speaking to BBC's Science in Action, Dr Müller who was involved in the earlier ground-breaking research looking for the origins or Mers said, "We could identify, in South Africa, bats that were carrying ancestral viruses: viruses that are [evolutionary] older than the Mers virus that we are seeing today".

Out of Africa

But, whilst related, these bat viruses were distinct from the Mers virus cropping up in humans. There had to be another source.
Following a brainstorming meeting between the Bonn scientists and colleagues based at the Erasmus Medical College in the Netherlands, the researchers focussed their efforts on animals that had close contact with humans living in the Middle East: horses, cattle, sheep, goats and dromedary camels.
The finding from their initial work was clear. Dromedary camels living in the Middle East had antibodies that recognised Mers virus protein - a strong sign of past infection. None of the other animals tested contained these.
To gain further insight into the origins of this emerging human infection and the link to camels, the team then looked at samples obtained from dromedary camels living in other countries. bbc

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