Detection of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus genome in an air sample originating from a camel barn owned by an infected patient

Esam I Azhar, Anwar M Hashem, Sherif A El-Kafrawy, Sayed Sartaj Sohrab, Asad S Aburizaiza, Suha A Farraj, Ahmed M Hassan, Muneera S Al-Saeed, Ghazi A Jamjoom, Tariq A Madani
MBio 2014 July 22, 5 (4): e01450-14
Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a novel betacoronavirus that has been circulating in the Arabian Peninsula since 2012 and causing severe respiratory infections in humans. While bats were suggested to be involved in human MERS-CoV infections, a direct link between bats and MERS-CoV is uncertain. On the other hand, serological and virological data suggest dromedary camels as the potential animal reservoirs of MERS-CoV. Recently, we isolated MERS-CoV from a camel and its infected owner and provided evidence for the direct transmission of MERS-CoV from the infected camel to the patient. Here, we extend this work and show that identical MERS-CoV RNA fragments were detected in an air sample collected from the same barn that sheltered the infected camel in our previous study. These data indicate that the virus was circulating in this farm concurrently with its detection in the camel and in the patient, which warrants further investigations for the possible airborne transmission of MERS-CoV. Importance: This work clearly highlights the importance of continuous surveillance and infection control measures to control the global public threat of MERS-CoV. While current MERS-CoV transmission appears to be limited, we advise minimal contact with camels, especially for immunocompromised individuals, and the use of appropriate health, safety, and infection prevention and control measures when dealing with infected patients. Also, detailed clinical histories of any MERS-CoV cases with epidemiological and laboratory investigations carried out for any animal exposure must be considered to identify any animal source.

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