2/24/2014 5:41:58 PM
Saudi Arabian Camels Carry MERS Virus
Photo Credit: Kevin J. Olival/EcoHealth Alliance
Countrywide Survey Finds Virus in Humans and Camels Match, Establishes That Direct Camel-to-Human Transmission Is Possible and Likely
NEW YORK (Feb. 25, 2014)—An estimated three-quarters of camels recently surveyed in Saudi Arabia have evidence of infection with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), the virus responsible for human cases of the MERS. Results of the new study establish for the first time that direct camel-to-human transmission is possible and provide a pathway to control the spread of the disease.
Results in the journal mBio are reported by scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health; Mammals Research Chair, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health; and EcoHealth Alliance.
To date, at least 182 people have been infected with the virus that causes MERS and 79 have died since the first documented case in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. Since then, most cases have been in Saudi Arabia, with lower numbers in Jordan, Qatar, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates. France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom have also reportedcases related to travel to the Middle East. So far, the source of the disease has remained a mystery.
An analysis of blood samples collected from 203 camels across Saudi Arabia in 2013 found 150, or 74%, had antibodies to the MERS coronavirus, indicating past infection. Nasal swabs and rectal specimens revealed that genetic sequences of MERS-CoV from active infection in camels matched those found in humans. The rate of camels with active MERS-CoV infection varied widely by region, ranging from 66% of camels in Taif in the west to none in Gizan in the southwest. Young camels were more than twice as likely as adults to be infected. No evidence of MERS was seen in a similar survey of sheep and goats.
“This study is the first to show that the MERS virus seen in humans is widespread in camels throughout Saudi Arabia,” says first author Abdulaziz N. Alagaili, PhD, the director of the Mammals Research Chair at King Saud University. “This information is crucial for efforts to contain the spread of the disease. To this end, I want to thank His Excellency Minister of HigherEducation Dr. Khalid Al Anqari, His Highness, Prince Bandar bin Saud Al Saud, president of the Saudi Wildlife Authority, and Professor Badran Alomar, president of King Saud University, for their continued support of this important project.”
Airborne transmission of the virus between camels is most likely based on a number of clues, including that the virus was more evident in nasal swabs as opposed to rectal specimens. But how humans get the disease has not yet been determined.
“What we know now is that camels carry the same MERS virus that infects humans, which indicates that they have the potential to transmit the virus directly to humans,” says study co-author Thomas Briese, PhD, associate director of the Center for Infection and Immunity and associate professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School.
“A study we published last year found that the virus was carried in a bat found near the first known human case of MERS,” adds Dr. Briese. “The roles of bats and camels in human infection remains an area of active research for our group and others.”
MERS-CoV in Camels Since 1992 or Earlier
MERS-CoV has been carried by camels in Saudi Arabia for more than 20 years, and likely longer. The researchers looked at blood serum samples from camels, finding evidence of the virus dating back to 1992, the earliest sample. MERS is not fatal in camels and there are so far no outward signs of the disease, although researchers say the animal’s characteristic drool could be related.
Human cases of MERS-CoV may have a longer history than previously thought. Before the index case in 2012, they may have been labeled as a more generic “unexplained respiratory disease.” Unfortunately there are no available human samples.
New Mobile Lab, Saudi Collaboration
Alongside its insights into MERS-CoV, the study also cemented collaborations and validated systems that will carry forward into future studiesof MERS-CoV and other infectious disease threats.
“The study is the first collaboration between the Center for Infection and Immunity and King Saud University, as well as the first to use the Center’s new mobile field laboratory, that is designed to enable surveillance, discovery and service missions in support of international organizations like the World Health Organization,” says senior author W. Ian Lipkin, MD, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity and the John Snow Professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School. “We look forward to continued work toward the ultimate goal of eliminating the threat of MERS and other infectious agents tohuman health.”
Additional co-authors include Nischay Mishra, Vishal Kapoor, Stephen C. Sameroff, and Amit Kapoor of the Center for Infection and Immunity; Emmie de Wit, Vincent J. Munster, and Lisa E. Hensley of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health; Jonathan H. Epstein, William B. Karesh, and Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance; and Iyad S. Zalmout and Osama B. Mohammed of King Saud University.
The KSU Mammals Research Chair is supported by the Deanship of Scientific Research, King Saud University. Work in the Center for Infection and Immunity and EcoHealth Alliance is supported by awards from the National Institutes of Health (AI057158) and the United States Agency for International Development’s Emerging Pandemic Threat Program, PREDICT project, under terms of Cooperative Agreement Number GHN-A-OO-09-00010-00. Work in the Rocky Mountain Laboratories (De Wit, Munster) and Integrated Research Facility (Hensley) was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health.
Click here to read the full article
11/7/2013 5:49:22 PM
"Of microbes and men: tales of the small game hunter"
For this year’s Charles Simonyi Lecture Oxford Playhouse welcomes Ian Lipkin the “World’s Greatest Virus Hunter” (Discover Magazine). Using his experience studying HIV/AIDS, SARS and pandemic influenza, Ian will review how bacteria, fungi and viruses cause illness, why new infections appear and the implications of the emerging field of microbiology. Ian Lipkin is the John Snow Professor of Epidemiology, Professor of Neurology and Pathology, and Director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University. He was also the scientific consultant for the Steven Soderbergh film Contagion. Ian Lipkin will be introduced by Marcus du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at University of Oxford.
Date / Time: 8 November 2013, 17:00
Venue: Oxford Playhouse, Beaumont Street, Oxford, UK, OX1 2LW
10/10/2013 5:30:38 PM
The Center for Infection and Immunity Distinguished Guest Lecture Series Presents...
Nodding Syndrome: A Neurologic Mystery in Africa
By James J. Sejvar, MD
Friday, October 18, 2013 12:00 PM
Mailman School of Public Health
722 West 168th Street 8th Floor Auditorium
Nodding Syndrome is an unexplained neurologic illness, characterized by repeated spells of head bobbing. The illness primarily affects children ages 5-15 in several areas in East Africa, causing seizures and neurocognitive decline. In this lecture, Dr. Sejvar will discuss his investigations into the epidemiology, clinical features and possible causes or risk factors of this devastating illness.
Dr. Sejvar serves as a neuroepidemiologist at the CDC Divisions of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology and Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases. His current research centers on the epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical features and outcomes of nervous system infections and neurologic adverse events following immunizations. He is currently conducting several domestic and international field investigations into unexplained neurologic illnesses and the development of intervention strategies for prevention and control of neurologic infections.
Watch this lecture: