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Additional Beta Coronavirus Cases Raise Concerns
Recombinomics Commentary 19:00
February 27, 2013

A novel coronavirus has infected 13 people, killing seven, Gwen Stephens, with the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health, said at an American Society for Microbiology biodefense conference in Washington today.

The World Health Organization is trying to confirm reports of two additional cases, she said.

The above comments suggest the number of novel beta coronavirus cases will continue to grow.  Currently there are 13 confirmed cases and an equal number of probable cases which have not been confirmed due to testing issues.  The probable cases are epidemiologically linked to confirmed cases.

The most recent confirmed case (61F) was in Saudi Arabia, and all but one of the cases identified since the summer of 2012 have been linked to Saudi Arabia, although media reports have suggested that the most recent case, who died in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia developed symptoms while abroad.

Full sequences have been published for three of the cases, and partial sequences have been published for two additional cases, and all sequences are virtually identical and not closely related to any know sequence, including the group 2c sequences from bats in Asia, Africa, and Europe.  Most of the human cases have no reported animal contact and all have been identified with PCR tests that target the novel beta coronavirus (nCoV), so the sequences for the other confirmed cases will also be virtually identical to the five public sequences (media myths on animal origins notwithstanding).

The sequence identities, coupled with clustering and confirmation of a mild case, strongly suggests that the number of cases is orders of magnitude higher than the confirmed cases, which cover infections with disease onset dates almost a year apart, and involve multiple locations in Saudi Arabia as well as Jordan and Qatar.

More information on the two new additional cases cited above would be useful.

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