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Detail On MERS Asymptomatic Camels Cluster In Qatar
Recombinomics Commentary 16:30
November 29, 2013

Epidemiological comments The health authority in Qatar notified the presence of a confirmed human MERS-CoV (Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) case. A joint team from both health and veterinary authorities was sent to the patient farm to investigate the health status of animals and the contact person. A farm worker proved to be positive for MERS-CoV and samples were collected from the 14 existing camels in addition to one sheep, some pigeons and chickens and some environmental samples (water, soil, animal food and grass) and all were sent to the Netherlands for testing. All animals were kept under observation and quarantine and all were apparently healthy.

The above comments are from the OIE report on the three PCR confirmed camels in Shahanya, Rayyan in Qatar (see map).  This information supplements the October 18, 2013 WHO report on the index case (61M) who was hospitalized on October 11, three days prior to the OIE designated start of the above outbreak.  The WHO report noted that the initial tests on the farm animals were negative.

Media reports have cited collection of nasal swabs for the PCR and sequence confirmations, which conclusively indicated the three camels were infected with MERS-CoV.  Since the index case and a farm worker (23M) survived, it is likely that extensive sequence data will be forthcoming for one or both of the cases as well as one or more camel.  It is likely that these sequences will be virtually identical (>99.9%).

However, media reports citing positive antibody results may signal earlier infections, especially if samples collected on October 10 are positive. 

The 14 camels offer an opportunity to further characterize MERS-CoV infections in animals, since the PCR data signaled active infections at the time of sample collection.  Detail on antibody and RNA levels in sequential collections may offer insight into the direction of the interspecies transmission, as well as potential intra-species transmission in camels, as well as similarities with the 2003 SARS outbreak..

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