For reasons that are difficult to fathom, research out of Saudi Arabia on MERS has been very slow in coming. It was only last week that we finally saw a (very limited) case-control study published in the EID Journal, and while welcome, it didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know (or strongly suspect).
The big questions on the various ways by which the virus spreads in the community, and why it seems to foil local hospital infection control protocols with such regularity, remain unanswered (see WHO EMRO: Scientific Meeting Reviews MERS Progress & Knowledge Gaps).
After more than three years of outbreaks, 5 Health Ministers, 1275 diagnosed cases and nearly 550 deaths in Saudi Arabia alone, the Arab News today carries an announcement on what is promised to be a joint program for comprehensive research into MERS.
Published — Tuesday 10 November 2015
RIYADH: The King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in cooperation with the ministries of health and agriculture has launched a joint program for comprehensive research on the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which has infected 1,276 people in the Kingdom since June 2012.
Of the total number of MERS victims, 546 have died, according to the Ministry of Health's latest count.
The agreement was signed by President of the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed Al Saud, Health Minister Khalid Al-Falih and Minister of Agriculture Abdulrahman bin Abdulmohsen Al-Fadhli at KACST headquarters on Sunday.
Following the signing ceremony, Prince Turki said that under the accord, KACST will provide the technical and financial support to conduct research in addition to harnessing the infrastructure of specialized laboratories and digital structures highly developed to create a national database for MERS, and will subsequently include all infectious diseases throughout the Kingdom.
Based on this reporting, this appears to be more of an agreement on a way forward by the MOH, MOA, and the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) for MERS research, rather than a fully fleshed out plan.
The group pledges to seek out the `cooperation of Saudi universities’, and promises `cooperation with international experts’, but few specifics and no timeline are offered.
Meanwhile, in an extended lull, the Saudi MOH reports their 7th day without a new MERS case.