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MERS Asymptomatic Camels In Qatar Sequence Confirmed
Recombinomics Commentary 15:30
November 28, 2013

Ab Osterhaus, a professor of virology at the Erasmus Medical Centre in The Netherlands that worked on the camel study, told Reuters the results were confirmed by a range of tests including sequencing and antibody testing.

The above comments indicate that the asymptomatic MERS positives camels in Qatar (see map) have been sequence confirmed, which was expected.  Earlier the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health (KSA-MoH) had announced PCR confirmation of MERS in a critical case (43M) and one of his eight camels (which was symptomatic).  Media reports suggested that sequence data from the camel and case may be announced or released this week.  That sequence data was expected to show the the camel had an active MERS infection, with a match to its owner of >99.9%.

The Qatar result indicates 3 of 14 asymptomatic camels were PCR confirmed and partial sequence data confirmed that the PCR (and antibody) results signaled an active MERS infection.  Prior antibody results on racing camels in Oman and animals imported by Egypt from Sudan (for slaughter) signaled a high frequency of infections, and the latest PCR data strongly suggests that the antibody data for the camels signaled prior MERS infections.

The report that active MERS infections were present in asymptomatic camels (which were linked to two MERS confirmed cases, 61M and 23M, raises concerns that MERS is widespread in camels throughout the Middle East (including Oman and Egypt).

Although the direction of the interspecies transmission is unclear, the finding of MERS in 3 asymptomatic camels in Qatar increases the likelihood that camels represent a reservoir that leads to human infections.  Although most confirmed human cases do not have a direct camel link, independent introductions, followed by transmission by milder human cases, has raised serious concerns.

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