News / Middle East

Study: Deadly Saudi Virus Shows Complex Transmission

Scientists find clue suggesting camels may be involved in infecting people the deadly MERS virus, Camelicious milk farm in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, July 3, 2013.
Scientists find clue suggesting camels may be involved in infecting people the deadly MERS virus, Camelicious milk farm in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, July 3, 2013.
Reuters
Genetic analysis of samples of the deadly MERS virus that has killed 58 people in the Middle East and Europe shows the disease has jumped from animals to humans several times, scientists said on Friday.
 
At least 132 people have been infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus since it emerged about a year ago, and it has killed 58 of them, according to the World Health Organization.
 
While cases have been reported in people across the Middle East and in France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain, the vast majority of infections and deaths are in Saudi Arabia.
 
After conducting genome sequencing studies of the virus — from the same coronavirus family as the one that caused SARS a decade ago, British and Saudi researchers found several infection transmission chains and said they painted a picture of what they called lively “pathogenic chatter” between species.
 
“Our findings suggest that different lineages of the virus have originated from the virus jumping across to humans from an animal source a number of times,” said Paul Kellam, a professor of viral pathogenesis at Britain's Sanger Institute and University College London (UCL), who led the research.
 
His team sequenced and analyzed the genomes of MERS-CoV samples taken from 21 patients from across Saudi Arabia. They then combined the geographic locations of the patients with the time they were infected and the amount of genetic differences seen between the virus genomes.
 
This led them to what they called a “higher resolution picture of how the virus has spread and how its genome has changed over time.”
 
While the findings, published in the Lancet medical journal, cannot help scientists predict how likely MERS is to become more easily transmissible in people — and how likely to cause a human pandemic — they should help health experts develop more effective infection control measures to limit its spread.
 
The virus, a cousin of the coronavirus that caused a deadly outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002 and 2003, can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia.
 
As yet no firm evidence has been found on the so-called “animal reservoir” of MERS, although several recent studies have linked it to bats and to dromedary camels.
 
Various groups of scientists are conducting studies of other potential reservoir species, including goats, sheep, dogs, cats, rodents and others.
 
Ziad Memish, Saudi's deputy minister of health and one of the researchers on this latest study, said pinning down the animal source or sources would be critical in allowing health authorities to get on top of the outbreak.
 
Researchers and health officials say they take some solace from evidence showing that while the virus can spread from person-to-person, it does not do so easily and doesn't appear to be gaining a firm foothold as a human disease.
 
“Two mass gathering events attracting over 8 million pilgrims have occurred in Mecca, Saudi Arabia since the discovery of MERS-CoV 12 months ago — the annual haj in October 2012 and the July 2013 Ramadan Umrah season — and yet no MERS-CoV cases have been reported from these events to date,” said Ali Zumla, a professor of infectious diseases at UCL, who also worked on the study.
 
He added, however, that “despite the current minimal risk of global spread” and in the light of these latest genetic findings, “watchful surveillance and vigilance is required.”

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More