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The Saudi Ministry of Health has discovered a possible transmission link between a MERS-CoV patient and a sick camel he owned, reporting that actual virus has been recovered from the animal rather than antibodies, according to a PubMed post by Ziad Memish, MD, Saudi Deputy Minister for Public Health.
“This is the first time that a camel related to a case tests positive for MERS-CoV by PCR,’ he stated in the post. “Further testing is ongoing to sequence the patient and the camel virus and compare genetic similarity level to conclude causality.”
The Saudis reported that 43-year-old male from Jeddah had developed MERS symptoms on Oct 27 and sought medical treatment on Nov. 3. Currently in an intensive care unit, the patient does not have underlying chronic disease seen in many MERS patients. He had no recent travel history outside of Jeddah. He had significant contact with animals but no contact with a known positive human case. To complete the investigation extensive environmental/animal contact sources were pursued.
“Camels owned by the patient which were symptomatic with fever and rhinorrhea were tested for MERS-CoV and tested positive,” Memish reported.
If the virus isolates are shown to be genetic matches, the case will be the first confirmation of the previously suspected possibility of transmission from camels to humans. Camels have previously been shown to have antibodies to the novel virus, raising the possibility that they are an intermediate or “bridge” host for MERS to move from a suspected bat reservoir to humans.1 Other animals may also serve as a reservoir or intermediate host for the coronavirus.