Scientists have found cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in camels in Qatar, health officials said Nov. 28, fuelling speculation that camels might be the animal reservoir that allowed the virus to infect and kill humans.
The SARS-like coronavirus, which emerged in the Middle East last year and has killed almost 40 per cent of the around 170 people so far infected, was found in three camels in a herd in a barn also linked to two human cases of MERS infection.
“The three camels were investigated among a herd of 14 camels, and the samples were collected as part of the epidemiological investigation,” Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health said in a statement.
It added that the two confirmed human cases linked to the barn had since recovered. Scientists around the world have been seeking to pin down the animal source of MERS virus infections since the first human cases were confirmed.
British researchers who conducted some of the very first genetic analyses on MERS last September said the virus, which is from the same family as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, was also related to a virus found in bats.