MERS-CoV UAE/KSA Seqs Signal Human Transmission Evolution

Wednesday, June 12, 2013
By Paul Martin
June 12, 2013

Recently released full MERS-CoV sequences (see map) from fatal cases in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Al Hasa region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) fully support human transmission of the novel coronavirus in the Middle East, as well as evolution via homologous recombination. The sequence from the fatal case (73M) from Abu Dhabi, UAE (MUNICH/AbuDhabi/2013), who had links to racing camel and was transported to Munich, Germany for treatment, has been made available at the Institute for Virology in Bonn. Similarly, researchers affiliated with the KSA Ministry of Health have released four full sequences via Genbank (Al Hasa 1/2013, Al Hasa 2/2013, Al Hasa 3/2013, Al Hasa 4/2013). They are to be commended for the rapid release of these important sequences (see map for patient assignment and location).

Prior to the release of these five full sequences, similar sequences were available for four prior cases (the earliest case confirmed by PCR – 40F from ICU outbreak in Zarka – Jordan-N3/2012, the first confirmed case – 60M from Bisha – EMC/2012, the second confirmed case – 49M from Qatar ex-KSA – England1/2012, the index case for first confirmed onward transmission – 60M from England ex-KSA – England2/2012).
These four sequences were closely related to each other (>99.5% identity with consensus) and clear fell into two sub-clades due to clustered changes in the ORF-1ab gene. The two earlier sequences (Jordan-N3/EMC) formed one sub-clade, while the two more recent sequences (England1 and England2) formed a second sub-clade. The clustering of the majority of the defining polymorphisms signaled evolution via homologous recombination.

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