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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 (28 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

      lOL! REPEATING WHAT'S ON THE NEWS.

      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

    i JUST RODE A CAMEL LAST WEEK. wOULD THAT i BE AFFECTED FOR CORONAVIRUS?

    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. ??? ??????? ???

    「東京金が打ち出した細則に変更はないが、具体的な操作規程、みんなも知らないどの部門をドッキングして、どのように申告。」東京管&#29

    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

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    CASE POLITICAL FABIOLA LEON PAYING MONEY TO VIOLATE WOMEN CRIMINAL ACTIVITY.RRRRRRRRRRRRRR

    COMPLAINT BY ROBO MURDER RAPE DRUG Y USE OF TECHNOLOGY FOR HUMAN VIOLATIONS.

    RRRRRRRRRRRRDENOUNCE TO CHILD POLITIC:RRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

    UUUUUUUUUJUSTIN AMASH-UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU
    RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

    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

    LOL!
    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
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    April 11, 2014 at 05:25 | Report abuse | Reply
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    April 11, 2014 at 05:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. em

    i bet you suck everything

    February 26, 2014 at 20:05 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.