Occurrence of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) across the Gulf Corporation Council countries: Four years update.
ABSTRACT: The emergence of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infections has become a global issue of dire concerns. MERS-CoV infections have been identified in many countries all over the world whereas high level occurrences have been documented in the Middle East and Korea. MERS-CoV is mainly spreading across the geographical region of the Middle East, especially in the Arabian Peninsula, while some imported sporadic cases were reported from the Europe, North America, Africa, and lately Asia. The prevalence of MERS-CoV infections across the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) countries still remains unclear. Therefore, the objective of the current study was to report the prevalence of MERS-CoV in the GCC countries and to also elucidate on its demographics in the Arabian Peninsula. To date, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 1,797 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection since June 2012, involving 687 deaths in 27 different countries worldwide. Within a time span of 4 years from June 2012 to July 2016, we collect samples form MERS-CoV infected individuals from National Guard Hospital, Riyadh, and Ministry of health Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries. Our data comprise a total of 1550 cases (67.1% male and 32.9% female). The age-specific prevalence and distribution of MERS-CoV was as follow: <20 yrs (36 cases: 3.28%), 20-39 yrs (331 cases: 30.15%), 40-59 yrs (314 cases: 28.60%), and the highest-risk elderly group aged ?60 yrs (417 cases: 37.98%). The case distribution among GCC countries was as follows: Saudi Arabia (1441 cases: 93%), Kuwait (4 cases: 0.3%), Bahrain (1 case: 0.1%), Oman (8 cases: 0.5%), Qatar (16 cases: 1.0%), and United Arab Emirates (80 cases: 5.2%). Thus, MERS-CoV was found to be more prevalent in Saudi Arabia especially in Riyadh, where 756 cases (52.4%) were the worst hit area of the country identified, followed by the western region Makkah where 298 cases (20.6%) were recorded. This prevalence update indicates that the Arabian Peninsula, particularly Saudi Arabia, is the hardest hit region regarding the emerging MERS-CoV infections worldwide. GCC countries including Saudi Arabia now have the infrastructure in place that allows physicians and scientific community to identify and immediately respond to the potential risks posed by new outbreaks of MERS-CoV infections in the region. Given the continuum of emergence and the large magnitude of the disease in our region, more studies will be required to bolster capabilities for timely detection and effective control and prevention of MERS-CoV in our region.
Project description:Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a lethal zoonosis that causes death in 35·7% of cases. As of Feb 28, 2018, 2182 cases of MERS-CoV infection (with 779 deaths) in 27 countries were reported to WHO worldwide, with most being reported in Saudi Arabia (1807 cases with 705 deaths). MERS-CoV features prominently in the WHO blueprint list of priority pathogens that threaten global health security. Although primary transmission of MERS-CoV to human beings is linked to exposure to dromedary camels (Camelus dromedarius), the exact mode by which MERS-CoV infection is acquired remains undefined. Up to 50% of MERS-CoV cases in Saudi Arabia have been classified as secondary, occurring from human-to-human transmission through contact with asymptomatic or symptomatic individuals infected with MERS-CoV. Hospital outbreaks of MERS-CoV are a hallmark of MERS-CoV infection. The clinical features associated with MERS-CoV infection are not MERS-specific and are similar to other respiratory tract infections. Thus, the diagnosis of MERS can easily be missed, unless the doctor or health-care worker has a high degree of clinical awareness and the patient undergoes specific testing for MERS-CoV. The largest outbreak of MERS-CoV outside the Arabian Peninsula occurred in South Korea in May, 2015, resulting in 186 cases with 38 deaths. This outbreak was caused by a traveller with undiagnosed MERS-CoV infection who became ill after returning to Seoul from a trip to the Middle East. The traveller visited several health facilities in South Korea, transmitting the virus to many other individuals long before a diagnosis was made. With 10 million pilgrims visiting Saudi Arabia each year from 182 countries, watchful surveillance by public health systems, and a high degree of clinical awareness of the possibility of MERS-CoV infection is essential. In this Review, we provide a comprehensive update and synthesis of the latest available data on the epidemiology, determinants, and risk factors of primary, household, and nosocomial transmission of MERS-CoV, and suggest measures to reduce risk of transmission.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a zoonotic infection causing severe viral pneumonia, with index cases having resided in or recently travelled to the Arabian peninsula, and is a global concern for public health. Limited human-to-human transmission, leading to some case clusters, has been reported. MERS-CoV has been reported in dromedary camels but phenotypic characterisation of such viruses is limited. We aimed to compare MERS-CoV isolates from dromedaries in Saudi Arabia and Egypt with a prototype human MERS-CoV to assess virus replication competence and cell tropism in ex-vivo cultures of human bronchus and lung. METHODS:We characterised MERS-CoV viruses from dromedaries in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and compared them with a human MERS-CoV reference strain. We assessed viral replication kinetics and competence in Vero-E6 cells (rhesus monkey), tissue tropism in cultures of ex-vivo human bronchial and lung tissues, and cytokine and chemokine induction, gene expression, and quantification of viral RNA in Calu-3 cells (human respiratory tract). We used mock-infected tissue as negative controls for ex-vivo experiments and influenza A H5N1 as a positive control for cytokine and chemokine induction experiments in Calu-3 cells. FINDINGS:We isolated three dromedary strains, two from Saudi Arabia (Dromedary/Al-Hasa-KFU-HKU13/2013 [AH13] and Dromedary/Al-Hasa-KFU-HKU19D/2013 [AH19D]), and one from Egypt (Dromedary/Egypt-NRCE-HKU270/2013 [NRCE-HKU270]). The human and dromedary MERS-CoV strains had similar viral replication competence in Vero-E6 cells and respiratory tropism in ex-vivo cultures of the human respiratory tract, and had similar ability to evade interferon responses in the human-respiratory-tract-derived cell line Calu-3. INTERPRETATION:The similarity of virus tropism and replication competence of human and dromedary MERS-CoV from the Arabian peninsula, and genetically diverse dromedary viruses from Egypt, in ex-vivo cultures of the human respiratory tract suggests that dromedary viruses from Saudi Arabia and Egypt are probably infectious to human beings. Exposure to zoonotic MERS-CoV is probably occurring in a wider geographical region beyond the Arabian peninsula. FUNDING:King Faisal University, Egyptian National Research Centre, Hong Kong Food and Health Bureau, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and European Community Seventh Framework Program.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a lethal zoonotic pathogen endemic to the Arabian Peninsula. Dromedary camels are a likely source of infection and the virus probably originated in Africa. We studied the genetic diversity, geographical structure, infection prevalence, and age-associated prevalence among camels at the largest entry port of camels from Africa into the Arabian Peninsula. METHODS:In this prospective genomic study, we took nasal samples from camels imported from Sudan and Djibouti into the Port of Jeddah in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, over an almost 2-year period and local Arabian camels over 2 months in the year after surveillance of the port. We determined the prevalence of MERS-CoV infection, age-associated patterns of infection, and undertook phylogeographical and migration analyses to determine intercountry virus transmission after local lineage establishment. We compared all virological characteristics between the local and imported cohorts. We compared major gene deletions between African and Arabian strains of the virus. Reproductive numbers were inferred with Bayesian birth death skyline analyses. FINDINGS:Between Aug 10, 2016, and May 3, 2018, we collected samples from 1196 imported camels, of which 868 originated from Sudan and 328 from Djibouti, and between May 1, and June 25, 2018, we collected samples from 472 local camels, of which 189 were from Riyadh and 283 were from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Virus prevalence was higher in local camels than in imported camels (224 [47·5%] of 472 vs 157 [13·1%] of 1196; p<0·0001). Infection prevalence peaked among camels older than 1 year and aged up to 2 years in both groups, with 255 (66·9%) of 381 positive cases in this age group. Although the overall geographical distribution of the virus corresponded with the phylogenetic tree topology, some virus exchange was observed between countries corresponding with trade routes in the region. East and west African strains of the virus appear to be geographically separated, with an origin of west African strains in east Africa. African strains of the virus were not re-sampled in Saudi Arabia despite sampling approximately 1 year after importation from Africa. All local Arabian samples contained strains of the virus that belong to a novel recombinant clade (NRC) first detected in 2014 in Saudi Arabia. Reproduction number estimates informed by the sequences suggest sustained endemicity of NRC, with a mean Re of 1·16. INTERPRETATION:Despite frequent imports of MERS-CoV with camels from Africa, African lineages of MERS-CoV do not establish themselves in Saudi Arabia. Arabian strains of the virus should be tested for changes in virulence and transmissibility. FUNDING:German Ministry of Research and Education, EU Horizon 2020, and Emerging Diseases Clinical Trials Partnership.
Project description:A high percentage of camel handlers in Saudi Arabia are seropositive for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. We found that 12/100 camel handlers and their family members in Pakistan, a country with extensive camel MERS-CoV infection, were seropositive, indicating that MERS-CoV infection of these populations extends beyond the Arabian Peninsula.
Project description:The increasing emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a serious public health issue. Increasing the awareness of the general public about appropriate antibiotic use is a key factor for combating this issue. Several public media campaigns worldwide have been launched; however, such campaigns can be costly and the outcomes are variable and difficult to assess. Social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, are now frequently utilized to address health-related issues. In many geographical locations, such as the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain), these platforms are becoming increasingly popular. The socioeconomic status of the GCC states and their reliable communication and networking infrastructure has allowed the penetration and scalability of these platforms in the region. This might explain why the Saudi Ministry of Health is using social media platforms alongside various other media platforms in a large-scale public awareness campaign to educate at-risk communities about the recently emerged Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). This paper discusses the potential for using social media tools as cost-efficient and mass education platforms to raise awareness of appropriate antibiotic use in the general public and in the medical communities of the Arabian Peninsula.
Project description:The first major pandemic of the new millennium that arose from southern China in 2002 was of zoonotic origin from wild game animals, called severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS]. The culprit was determined to be a coronavirus of animal origin [SARS-CoV]. The discovery of the SARS-CoV, which caused an outbreak of >8000 people in >30 countries with fatality of about 10%, resulted in intense search for novel coronaviruses with potentially high pathogenicity. Ten years later after the SARS pandemic, another novel coronavirus crossed the species barrier from bats to humans through an intermediate camel host, to produce a severe lower respiratory infection labeled the Middle East respiratory syndrome [MERS]. A novel coronavirus [MERS-CoV] was first identified in September 2012, from patients who resided or traveled to Saudi Arabia. The MERS-CoV spread through contacts with camel and subsequently from human to human via droplet transmission. MERS cases occurred in several other countries including in Europe and the United States, mainly from residence or travel to the Arabian Peninsula, but was not of pandemic potential. However, in the spring of 2015, a MERS outbreak started in South Korea which was initiated by a returning traveler from Saudi Arabia, and subsequently secondary infection of over 186 local residents occurred. Recent estimate in May 2015 indicates that the MERS-CoV have afflicted 1167 patients with MERS worldwide with 479 deaths [41% fatality]. Thus MERS is more deadly than SARS but appears to be less contagious. However, unlike SARS which has not reappeared since 2002–2003, MERS-CoV have the potential to cause sporadic or local outbreaks for many years as the virus may now be entrenched endemically in dromedary camels of the Middle East.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a newly recognized zoonotic coronavirus. Current evidence confirms the role of dromedaries in primary human infections but does not explain the sporadic community cases. However, asymptomatic or subclinical cases could represent a possible source of infection in the community. METHODS:Archived human sera (7461) collected between 2011 and 2016 from healthy adult blood donors from 50 different nationalities in the western part of Saudi Arabia were obtained for MERS-CoV seroprevalence investigation. Samples were tested for MERS-CoV S1-specific antibodies (Abs) by ELISA and confirmed by testing for neutralizing Abs (nAbs) using both pseudotyped and live virus neutralization assays. RESULTS:Out of 7461 samples, 174 sera from individuals with 18 different nationalities were ELISA positive (2.3%, 95% CI 2.0-2.7). Presence of nAbs was confirmed in 17 samples (0.23%, 95% CI 0.1-0.4) of which one sample exhibited positivity in both neutralization assays. Confirmed seropositivity was identified in young (15-44 years) men and women from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan, Palestine, Sudan, and India without significant preference. CONCLUSIONS:An increasing trend of MERS-CoV seroprevalence was observed in the general population in western Saudi Arabia, suggesting that asymptomatic or mild infections might exist and act as an unrecognized source of infection. Seropositivity of individuals from different nationalities underscores the potential MERS exportation outside of the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, enhanced and continuous surveillance is highly warranted.
Project description:Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is caused by a novel betacoronavirus that was isolated in late 2012 in Saudi Arabia. The viral infections have been reported in more than 1700 humans, ranging from asymptomatic or mild cases to severe pneumonia with a mortality rate of 40%. It is well documented now that dromedary camels contract the infection and shed the virus without notable symptoms, and such animals had been infected by at least the early 1980s. The mechanism of camel to human transmission is still not clear, but several primary cases have been associated with camel contact. There is no approved antiviral drug or vaccine against MERS-CoV despite the active research in this area. Vaccine candidates have been developed using various platforms and regimens and have been tested in several animal models. Here, this article reviews the published studies on MERS-CoV vaccines with more focus on vaccines tested in large animals, including camels. It is foreseeable that the 1-health approach could be the best way of tackling the MERS-CoV endemic in the Arabian Peninsula, by using the mass vaccination of camels in the affected areas to block camel to human transmission. Camel vaccines can be developed in a faster time with fewer regulations and lower costs and could clear this virus from the Arabian Peninsula if accompanied by efficient public health measures.
Project description:Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) causes a zoonotic respiratory disease of global public health concern, and dromedary camels are the only proven source of zoonotic infection. Although MERS-CoV infection is ubiquitous in dromedaries across Africa as well as in the Arabian Peninsula, zoonotic disease appears confined to the Arabian Peninsula. MERS-CoVs from Africa have hitherto been poorly studied. We genetically and phenotypically characterized MERS-CoV from dromedaries sampled in Morocco, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. Viruses from Africa (clade C) are phylogenetically distinct from contemporary viruses from the Arabian Peninsula (clades A and B) but remain antigenically similar in microneutralization tests. Viruses from West (Nigeria, Burkina Faso) and North (Morocco) Africa form a subclade, C1, that shares clade-defining genetic signatures including deletions in the accessory gene ORF4b Compared with human and camel MERS-CoV from Saudi Arabia, virus isolates from Burkina Faso (BF785) and Nigeria (Nig1657) had lower virus replication competence in Calu-3 cells and in ex vivo cultures of human bronchus and lung. BF785 replicated to lower titer in lungs of human DPP4-transduced mice. A reverse genetics-derived recombinant MERS-CoV (EMC) lacking ORF4b elicited higher type I and III IFN responses than the isogenic EMC virus in Calu-3 cells. However, ORF4b deletions may not be the major determinant of the reduced replication competence of BF785 and Nig1657. Genetic and phenotypic differences in West African viruses may be relevant to zoonotic potential. There is an urgent need for studies of MERS-CoV at the animal-human interface.
Project description:Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) causes severe respiratory illness in humans; the second-largest and most deadly outbreak to date occurred in Saudi Arabia. The dromedary camel is considered a possible host of the virus and also to act as a reservoir, transmitting the virus to humans. Here, we studied evolutionary relationships for 31 complete genomes of betacoronaviruses, including eight newly sequenced MERS-CoV genomes isolated from dromedary camels in Saudi Arabia. Through bioinformatics tools, we also used available sequences and 3D structure of MERS-CoV spike glycoprotein to predict MERS-CoV epitopes and assess antibody binding affinity. Phylogenetic analysis showed the eight new sequences have close relationships with existing strains detected in camels and humans in Arabian Gulf countries. The 2019-nCov strain appears to have higher homology to both bat coronavirus and SARS-CoV than to MERS-CoV strains. The spike protein tree exhibited clustering of MERS-CoV sequences similar to the complete genome tree, except for one sequence from Qatar (KF961222). B cell epitope analysis determined that the MERS-CoV spike protein has 24 total discontinuous regions from which just six epitopes were selected with score values of >80%. Our results suggest that the virus circulates by way of camels crossing the borders of Arabian Gulf countries. This study contributes to finding more effective vaccines in order to provide long-term protection against MERS-CoV and identifying neutralizing antibodies.