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 sa
|Contact: Timothy S. Paul|
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health