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Deadly Middle East virus found in camels – study
February 26, 2014, 4:59 pm

Scientists are still trying to determine if and how the virus was transferred from camels to humans [Xinhua]

Scientists are still trying to determine if and how the virus was transferred from camels to humans [Xinhua]

A Columbia University study published in the Journal of the American Society for Microbiology has revealed that the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which was discovered in 2012, has also been found in camels of the Arabian Peninsula.

But further study is needed, the report says, to determine if and how the virus spread from camel to human, and if the animal is itself the source of the disease.

According to the WHO website, “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses; different members of this family cause illness in humans and animals. In humans, these illnesses range from the common cold to infection with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS CoV)”.

The coronavirus, which has killed more than 80 people and hospitalised dozens in Oman, Qatar, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, is believed to have been prevalent in camels for more than 20 years but was largely undetected.

Research leader Ian Lipkin of Columbia University, said the virus had stabilised in camels since 1992 but that human cases were largely undiagnosed because it is a difficult disease to spot without proper lab facilities.

But he warned that MERS could evolve into a human-to-human transfer virus, although he acknowledged that it was yet unknown how it migrated from animals to humans.

While camels have for 20 years been building antibodies to MERS, Lipkin suggests people avoid contact with camels’ noses or mouths.

Meanwhile, WHO had previously said that “cases have also been reported by three countries in Europe—France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (UK)—and by Tunisia, in North Africa”.

“All the European and North African cases have had a direct or indirect connection to the Middle East,” WHO said at the time.

Source: Agencies