MERS coronavirus in 74% of Saudi Arabian camels
February 25th, 2014
04:11 PM ET

MERS coronavirus in 74% of Saudi Arabian camels

Scientists are making strides in unraveling the mystery of the MERS coronavirus, which so far has sickened at least 182 people, including 79 deaths.

While human cases have been traced back to September 2012, according to the World Health Organization, researchers in the United States and in Saudi Arabia have found evidence of MERS in camels going back at least 20 more years.

By taking samples from front and hind orifices of camels in all parts of Saudi Arabia, scientists found evidence of MERS in 74% of all dromedaries (single-hump camels) living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, according to a new study. "The virus we are finding in people is identical to the virus we're finding in camels," says Dr. Ian Lipkin, an internationally known disease detective and the director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Lipkin is the senior author of the study published Tuesday online in the open journal mBIo, the open access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Lipkin and his team found genetic evidence of the MERS coronavirus in younger animals, rather than adult camels. Scientists discovered younger camels had a high viral load, particularly in the nasal area. So, Lipkin says, "Don't kiss young camels, at least not on the nose."

The study authors also believe airborne transmission is the most likely mode of spreading this virus. Lipkin says it's "perfectly plausible that this particular virus is moving directly from camels to humans." But how humans get the disease has not yet been determined, according to the Center for Infection and Immunity.

Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and medicine at Vanderbilt University, says this study "adds to the appreciation of camels playing some role – perhaps even the dominant role  - as a reservoir for this virus and as a source of infection in humans."

Schaffner, who wasn't involved in the study, says this study suggests a vaccine for camels may be a good way to reduce the potential spread from animals to humans. Lipkin agrees, saying if there were a vaccine for camels, "you could conceivably eradicate infection in camels." It would also make more sense to vaccinate the dromedaries because many more of them seem to carry the virus than humans at this point.

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Annette

    "By taking samples from front and hind orifices of camels in all parts of Saudi Arabia, scientists found evidence of MERS in 74% of all dromedaries (single-hump camels) living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, according to a new study. "The virus we are finding in people is identical to the virus we're finding in camels," says Dr. Ian Lipkin, ... how humans get the disease has not yet been determined, according to the Center for Infection and Immunity."

    So... camel nose-kissing is a thing in Saudi Arabia?

    February 25, 2014 at 17:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • gERMANY


      February 26, 2014 at 05:59 | Report abuse |
    • bill

      No but camel f***ing is.

      February 26, 2014 at 15:21 | Report abuse |
  2. jack obermyer

    Why do Arabs call camels "ships of the desert"? Because they are full of Arabian semen!

    February 25, 2014 at 20:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. gERMANY


    February 26, 2014 at 05:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nowl

      Depends on how you rode it.

      February 26, 2014 at 09:15 | Report abuse |
    • rUSSIA

      Nowl that was funny

      February 26, 2014 at 22:53 | Report abuse |
  4. TexasSteve

    I know people who kiss their dogs in the USA. I wonder if Saudis kiss their camels.

    February 26, 2014 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Walter

    Camels spit, that could be a possible method to spread infection.

    For that matter, so do llamas and alpacas, which have some similarities to camels. It might be prudent to include them in the study to see if they aren't also a carier for this disease. Provided that hasn't been done already, of course.

    February 26, 2014 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Ted

    74% sounds pretty darn high. If this is going easily from camel to human, we may need to do something about it.

    February 26, 2014 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. MikeAFL

    Never hump without a condom

    February 26, 2014 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Tea Party Patriot

    One time when vacationing in the middle east I saw a muslim by the side of the road with his arm all the way up a camel's butt.
    " Car trouble? " I asked.

    February 26, 2014 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Y'sGuy

      He said "no just getting something outa the trunk"

      February 26, 2014 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
  9. Evenstar

    Camels are utterly nasty animals, much like al-qaeda!

    February 26, 2014 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      don't forget Bush Inc.
      without Bush Inc., al-qaeda is nothing
      without al-qaeda, Bush Inc. is nothing

      March 5, 2014 at 17:54 | Report abuse |
  10. svann

    Always wash your hands after you ..... well nm.

    February 26, 2014 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Skippy

    Can you imagine the uproar when all those camels go autistic from the vaccines? Have we no shame? Somebody get Jenny McCarthy a burka and a plane ticket.

    February 26, 2014 at 23:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. ??? ??????? ???


    February 27, 2014 at 04:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Camping-Mamaw

    So will this now be known as "Hump Flu"?

    February 27, 2014 at 10:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. LeRoy_Was_Here

    "Don't Kiss The Camel".

    One of the funniest headlines I have seen lately. Thanks.

    February 27, 2014 at 11:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • palintwit

      Even funnier than that would be Sarah Palin saying that she was running for POTUS in 2016.

      February 27, 2014 at 12:27 | Report abuse |
  15. ERTYERTYER4356456







    February 27, 2014 at 12:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Denny Crane, Esq.

    Camels are known to spit, which may be one mode of transmission, considering that the virus was found in nasal fluids.

    February 27, 2014 at 14:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. sly

    They do the same thing in Texas with sheep.

    "I was just helping that sheep over the fence".

    February 27, 2014 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Asmaa

    And why not talking about raising dogs and all kind of animals or kissing and touching dogs or horses??

    Yeah because Camels related to Arabs which you HATE!

    March 2, 2014 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Felisa Wojcik

    Gnarly article mate, keep the excellent work, just shared this with ma friendz


    April 11, 2014 at 05:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Miquel Sipple

    Nice internet site. On your blogs quite interest and i will tell a friends.


    April 11, 2014 at 05:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. VirusCancerKiller

    We can quietly leave the camels and livestock alone – Relax! – I got the power (and everybody can possess it) to destroy the MERS-CoV and to curb the Saudi Arabian and global pandemic – And the Haj Pilgrims can rest assured, knowing that regardless of any health issues (which will be cured 100%) the MERS virus can be killed along with any other viruses and pathogens the moment they touch us and everybody at the Haj will be absolutely invulnerable to any infections – Any threat worldwide will be completely avoided, once everybody (kids and adults) start doing my discovery – The WVCD – The Weapon of Virus and Cancer Destruction – By far more powerful than the human immune system, keeping it intact all the time, for any pathogens are killed the moment they touch us – Just an exercise for a minute a day – The cure and prevention of any diseases, known on Earth for millions of years – Infections, Cancers, Diabetes, MS, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's Disease, Cardiovascular Diseases and Strokes – Everybody (kids and adults) will stay absolutely healthy all the time, for the WVCD supplies every cell of our bodies with enough oxygen, that kills any pathogens the moment they touch us and prevents us from any diseases – The price of the WVCD for the whole world is 5 billion EURO – Just 25 million EURO per country – Can be paid to me by the governments of all countries in the world – Then everybody (kids and adults) will know how to stay absolutely healthy all the time – Never getting sick of any diseases even for a second.

    July 23, 2015 at 04:17 | Report abuse | Reply

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