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NEW FEARS: Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome may be transmitted through air

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
7/22/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Scientists still trying to figure out how deadly virus is transmitted

There are new fears that the rapidly spreading virus, Middle Eastern respiratory The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, or MERS, may be an airborne virus - making the disease highly easy to transmit, and get.

In their research, scientists from King Fahd Medical Research Center in Saudi Arabia collected three air samples from a camel barn.

In their research, scientists from King Fahd Medical Research Center in Saudi Arabia collected three air samples from a camel barn.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
7/22/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Health

Keywords: MERS, transmission, Saudi Arabia, airborne, research


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - To date, there have been 836 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS infection since its first appearance in 2012. According to the latest numbers provided by the World Health Organization, there have been at least 288 related deaths on account of MERS.

In the meantime, scientists are still trying to figure out how the deadly virus is transmitted.

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In their research, scientists from King Fahd Medical Research Center in Saudi Arabia collected three air samples from a camel barn. They had previously found MERS in a camel from that barn and in its infected owner, who later died from the condition. After analyzing the air sample, the scientists found one strain of MERS RNA, the viral genome.

The barn air tested positive for MERS on the exact same day that one of the nine camels in the barn tested positive for MERS. The virus from the air sample was found to be identical to the virus found in nasal samples from the infected camel and its owner.

"These data show evidence for the presence of the airborne MERS in the same barn that was owned by the patient and sheltered the infected camels," the study authors write.

Is this conclusive proof that MERS is easily transmitted through the air?

"What they say is that virus particles can be airborne, but it's premature to conclude that MERS is transmitted through aerosols," Dr. Mark Denison, a professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, says.

The crucial fact is the difference between dead virus particles and a viable virus.

"I could take billions of particles of dead viruses and could still find the RNA. That doesn't mean that there are infectious aerosols," Denison said.

Kevin Olival, a senior research scientist at EcoHealth Alliance, agrees on that distinction.

"We know that MERS is found in nasal secretion of camels, so virus particles being spread out in a barn is not a surprise," he said. "Whether or not you can get infected, and if it's a cause for concern, is still an open question."

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