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MERS PCR Confirmed In Jeddah Camel
Recombinomics Commentary 18:15
November 11, 2013

The Saudi government said Monday that a camel has tested positive for MERS, in the first case of an animal infected with the coronavirus that has killed 64 people worldwide.

A camel owned by a person diagnosed with the disease had "tested positive in preliminary laboratory checks," the health ministry said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.

The above comments support a recent Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health (KSA-MoH) announcement that a camel (see map) belonging to a recently confirmed Jeddah case (43M) has been PCR confirmed.  This represents the first confirmation of an active MERS-CoV infection in a camel.  Other than human, the only other mammal with an active MERS-CoV infection was a bat from Bisha, near the first confirmed MERS CoV case (60M) who died in Jeddah.

The current case was recently announced by the KSA-MoH and was a case who had not recently traveled outside of Jeddah,  Other confirmed MERS cases have been linked to symptomatic camels (in the United Arab Emirates, UAE, and Batin in the Eastern Region of KSA), but MERS was not lab confirmed.  MERS related antibodies (positive for MERS but negative for SARS and OC43) have been reported previously in racing camels in UAE and camels imported by Egypt from Sudan fro slaughter, but active MERS CoV was not confirmed in these or any other camels.

Confirmation of MERS-CoV in a camel own by the latest case in Jeddah would demonstrate inter-species transmission and would likely be from camel to human although the timing of the illness in the two host would help determine the direction.

MERS in camels suggests human cases are more common and widespread than indicated by the current confirmed cases, which have been largely reported in KSA. Other countries with significant camel populations would likely have significant human cases. 

Thus, the confirmation of MERS-CoV sequences in the above camel would lead to more aggressive testing (via antibody and PCR) and help determine the geographic reach of MERS-CoV. 

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