Persistence of Antibodies Against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus

Daniel C. Payne; Ibrahim Iblan; Brian Rha; Sultan Alqasrawi; Aktham Haddadin; Mohannad Al Nsour; Tarek Alsanouri; Sami Sheikh Ali; Jennifer Harcourt; Congrong Miao; Azaibi Tamin; Susan I. Gerber; Lia Haynes; Mohammad Mousa Al Abdallat


Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2016;22(10):1824-1826. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


To determine how long antibodies against Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus persist, we measured long-term antibody responses among persons serologically positive or indeterminate after a 2012 outbreak in Jordan. Antibodies, including neutralizing antibodies, were detectable in 6 (86%) of 7 persons for at least 34 months after the outbreak.


Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) causes acute respiratory illness, which can progress rapidly to respiratory failure and death in ≈40% of persons with laboratory-confirmed cases. The first known cases of MERS-CoV occurred during an outbreak of severe acute respiratory infections in Zarqa, Jordan, during March–April 2012.[1] New cases and clusters of MERS-CoV infections continue to occur within the Arabian Peninsula, and the virus has been exported to other countries around the world.

For 2 persons affected by the April 2012 outbreak, the cause of death remained unknown until late 2012, when retained samples produced positive MERS-CoV results according to reverse transcription PCR. In May 2013, we obtained serologic and epidemiologic data from 124 persons: the 2012 outbreak survivors, their exposed contacts, and their household members. In that investigation, we found another 7 persons with positive MERS-CoV results according to ELISA and confirmatory results by immunofluorescence assay (IFA), microneutralization assay, or both.[1] Results were indeterminate for another 8 exposed persons, whose results were positive by only 1 of these serologic methods; these 8 persons were deemed MERS test–negative overall.

For patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) infection, antibodies persist for at least 2 years after symptomatic infection.[2] Recently, antibodies against MERS-CoV were found (by ELISA and IFA) in 9 healthcare workers in Saudi Arabia with symptomatic MERS-CoV infection at least 18 months after infection.[3] Duration of antibody responses beyond 18 months has not been reported.[4] Our objective was to evaluate long-term antibody responses among persons with laboratory-confirmed to MERS-CoV infection.