The Middle Respiratory Syndrom coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a virus circulating in dromaderies, a common animal of the Arabian Pensinsula and also found in great numbers in many countries of the African continent. The virus has crossed from dromaderies to humans in the Arabian Peninsula, but this hasn't been observed in any African countries (imported and nosocomial infections only). Why?
Malik Peiris, co-director of HKU-Pasteur Research Pole and his colleagues united in a large international collaboration tackle this issue. In PNAS, they report the first evidences of genetic and phenotypic differences between the viruses of the 2 geographical areas, contributing to answer the question.
The viral respiratory disease was first identified in humans in 2012, in Saudi Arabia. Since then, more than 2,100 people have been infected with MERS-CoV, of whom 813 have died. WHO classifies the virus as one of the 10 priority emerging diseases given its potential to cause a public health emergency and the absence of efficient treatments or vaccines.
© CIRAD, S. Cognet
Learn more about the publication in the press release from CIRAD, the French centre for agricultural and development research involved in the study.
You can also read our story "MERS on the radar at HKU-Pasteur Research Pole" that comes back to 3 years of research on the coronavirus, or read Malik's interview on the occasion of his election to the US National Academy of Sciences.
MERS coronaviruses from camels in Africa exhibit region-dependent genetic diversity Chu DKW, Hui KPY, Perera RAPM, Miguel E, Niemeyer D, Zhao J, Channappanavar R, Dudas G, Oladipo JO, Traoré A, Fassi-Fihri O, Ali A, Demissié GF, Muth D, Chan MCW, Nicholls JM, Meyerholz DK, Kuranga SA, Mamo G, Zhou Z, So RTY, Hemida MG, Webby RJ, Roger F, Rambaut A, Poon LLM, Perlman S, Drosten C, Chevalier V, Peiris M. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Mar 5. pii: 201718769. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1718769115.