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Global Health
April 16, 2014

Dromedary Camels and MERS

JAMA. 2014;311(15):1489. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.3304

The coronavirus responsible for several hundred cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in the Middle East since 2012, many of them fatal, has been found to be widespread in dromedary camels throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and these animals are likely responsible for human transmission (Alagaili AN et al. mBio. 2014;5[2]:e00884-14).

Several lines of evidence have implicated dromedary camels as the animal reservoir. To explore this possibility, scientists in Saudi Arabia and the United States carried out a geographic and temporal survey on 203 dromedaries from different regions of Saudi Arabia and found that 150 (74%) of the animals had antibodies to the MERS coronavirus. Archived serum samples obtained from dromedaries from 1992 to 2010 indicated that the MERS virus or a closely related virus has been circulating in the animals since at least 1992.