A new research study reveals that the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) virus is not highly transmissible from camels to humans. The study was conducted by researchers at King Faisal University in Saudi Arabia and will be published in April in Emerging Infectious Diseases.
The MERS Virus first appeared in 2012 and causes a respiratory illness that has killed 30% of those infected, and many camels in Saudi Arabia have been infected with the virus that causes it, according to a Yahoo! News report. For the study, researchers tested blood from 45 people who were exposed to camels in Saudi Arabia.
Of the 45 people, 12 had direct contact with a herd of dromedary (one hump) camels, while some of the animals were infected with MERS and had repeated contact with the infected camels for more than one month. The researchers also analyzed blood from 146 people who lived in the same region but who did work with the camels. The Yahoo! News report notes that none of the people in the study had antibodies against MERS in their blood, which means they had likely not been infected with MERS in the past.
The research team concluded that the MERS virus “was not highly transmissible from dromedaries to humans with various levels of exposure to this infected dromedary herd,” according to Yahoo! News. The researchers do stress, however, that it is still possible for camels to transmit MERS to humans. The researchers write that it may be more common for the virus to spread from camels to people “in other settings in which humans are exposed over sustained periods to animals among which virus prevalence is higher.”
In addition, the researchers note that the situation with MERS in camels is similar to that of bird flu in Asian poultry markets: Although the virus is common in animals, human infection is rare and can seem random. The research team asserts that further studies on how the MERS virus spreads from camels to humans should examine whether some individuals are more susceptible than others to the deadly infection.
Source: Yahoo! News