Sometimes studies are published, and for whatever reason, they don’t get the immediate attention they deserve. Often, it is because we are otherwise occupied with a bigger story, such as the media was during the last week of September when Ebola was the only infectious disease story people were really interested in.
Little noticed at the time, was the publication in the CDC’s EID Journal of an important study on MERS-CoV shedding by camels, which I wrote about on September 25th in EID Journal: Replication & Shedding Of MERS-CoV In Inoculated Camels.
This study had the bad luck to be published the same week we saw the CDC Statement On MMWR Ebola Estimates, which predicted potentially 550,000 to 1.4 million Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone by the end of January if swift action wasn’t taken, the CDC issued a HAN: Acute Neurologic Illness with Focal Limb Weakness of Unknown Etiology in Children, and just 4 days before we learned that Thomas Duncan was America’s first imported Ebola case (see Dallas,Tx Patient Tests Positive For Ebola).
This week, however, that study is back in the news thanks to a press release from the University of Colorado, and with the recent uptick in MERS cases in Saudi Arabia, the Arabic press is taking notice as well.
You can read the full study, and my original post on it, at this link. The UC press release, follows:
Danielle Adney, left, and Vienna Brown with two of the camels in the MERS vaccine project at CSU.
FORT COLLINS - In a finding with global health implications, a research team led by a doctoral student at Colorado State University has confirmed for the first time that camels vent volumes of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, making them the likeliest suspect for spreading the pathogen to people.
Now the CSU team is testing a vaccine that could keep camels from shedding the MERS virus, which has caused acute respiratory illness in about 900 people across the Arabian Peninsula since it was identified in 2012.
The CSU researchers, partnering with an arm of the National Institutes of Health, demonstrated that infected camels shed large amounts of MERS virus, primarily through their nostrils. They also established for the first time that the virus develops in the animals’ upper respiratory system, and that camels shed infectious virus for up to a week.
The findings were not surprising to many scientists who study viral infectious disease – camels have been a primary suspect as a source of MERS – yet confirming the source is essential to advancing science, knowledge and solutions.
“This is a necessary step in looking at the interaction between the virus and the host species, the camel,” said Mark Pallansch, director of the Division of Viral Diseases in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
This study not only shows that infected camels can shed massive amounts of the MERS coronavirus from their nasal discharges, that they can do so without showing overt signs of serious illness.
Over the summer we saw the KSA MOH Reiterate Camel Warnings On MERS, urging breeders and owners to limit their contact with camels, and to use PPEs (masks, gloves, protective clothing) when in close contact with their animals.
And as recently as yesterday, we saw the the Saudi MOH remind citizens to:
- Avoid contact with camels, especially if they are sick, and their body fluids secretions.
- If you must be in contact with camels, wear a disposable mask over your mouth and nose, gloves, and a protective medical gown.
- Boil fresh camel milk, if not pasteurized.
- Cook camel meat (including liver) well before consumption.