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Deadly virus detected in camel barn

Posted on Jul 22 2014 | IANS

Dubai, July 22 : Researchers have detected genetic fragments of deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the air of a barn housing a camel infected with the virus.

MERS is a serious viral respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus and can be transmitted by air to humans.

For the study, researchers collected three air samples on Nov 7 last year from a camel barn here owned by a 43-year-old male MERS patient who later died from the condition.

Using a technique called reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to detect gene expression, they found that the first air sample contained genetic fragments of MERS-CoV.

This was the same day that one of the patient's camels tested positive for the disease.

"The other samples did not test positive for MERS-CoV, suggesting short or intermittent shedding of the virus into the air surrounding the camels," said lead study author Esam Azhar, an associate professor of medical virology at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Additional experiments confirmed the presence of MERS-CoV-specific genetic sequences in the first air sample.

"The clear message here is that detection of airborne MERS-CoV molecules warrants further investigation to prevent possible airborne transmission of this deadly virus to humans," Azhar noted.

Till June 11, MERS had been identified in 699 people and 209 people have died from the condition, according to the World Health Organisation.

The research was published in the journal mBio.

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