Human Infection With MERS Coronavirus After Exposure to Infected Camels

Saudi Arabia, 2013

Ziad A. Memish; Matthew Cotten; Benjamin Meyer; Simon J. Watson; Abdullah J. Alsahafi; Abdullah A. Al Rabeeah; Victor Max Corman; Andrea Sieberg; Hatem Q. Makhdoom; Abdullah Assiri; Malaki Al Masri; Souhaib Aldabbagh; Berend-Jan Bosch; Martin Beer; Marcel A. Müller; Paul Kellam; Christian Drosten


Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2014;20(6) 

In This Article


These data add to recent findings showing high similarity of MERS-CoVs carried by humans and camels[8,10] supporting the hypothesis that human MERS-CoV infection may be acquired directly from camels. In addition, both animals that showed signs of recent infection were juvenile, which provides further support to previous findings that mainly young animals are infected by MERS-CoV.[7,8] Given the synchronized parturition pattern of dromedary camels, with birthing in the winter months, an increase of epizootic activity might be expected after some latency during the first half of each year.

Our data provide particular insight into the timing of infections and transmission. Antibody titers rose and viral RNA concentrations were already on the decline in the camels while the patient was hospitalized with acute symptoms. Assuming a time before appearance of antibodies of 10–21 days, at least some of the camels would have been actively infected during middle to late October, when some animals showed signs of respiratory illness and the patient acquired his infection. Nevertheless, we cannot rule out other infectious causes of the animals' upper respiratory signs. Also, because of the retrospective nature of this investigation, we cannot rule out the possibility of a third source of MERS-CoV infection for camels and humans.

Dr Memish is Deputy Minister for Public Health, Ministry of Health; director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Mass Gathering Medicine; and professor at Alfaisal University College of Medicine, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His research interest is MERS coronavirus.