Study Finds Dromedary Camels May Carry Deadly MERS Coronavirus

Posted on August 12, 2013


A new study has found that dromedary camels may be carriers of the deadly Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus. The MERS virus causes severe respiratory illness. The first case was discovered in April 2012. All the cases so far have originated in countries in the Middle East. The latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) has a total of 94 lab-confirmed cases with 46 deaths. The CDC has a MERS resource here.

A study, published in the journal, Lancet Infectious Diseases, found antibodies for the MERS virus - or a very similar virus - in the blood of dromedary camels.

Professor Marion Koopmans, from National Institute of Public Health and the Environment and Erasmus University in The Netherlands, told BBC News that the finding is a "smoking gun," but no definitive proof. Professor Koopmans says, "The definitive proof would be to isolate the virus from an infected animal or to be able to sequence and characterise the genome from an infected animal."

Even if the camels are contracting the exact same MERS virus it does not necessarily mean camels are then passing it along to humans. It could be that both humans and camels are getting it from the same source. This scenario would still be very helpful in leading epidemiologists toward the ultimate source of the outbreak.

Photo: CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith; Azaibi Tamin

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