Scientists just found another reason to be worried about the deadly MERS virus

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
By Paul Martin

New research indicates that the virus may be airborne

Lindsay Abrams
Salon.com
Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014

A deadly virus spreading in the Middle East might be transmittable through the air, scientists warn.

The outbreak of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, known as MERS, in Saudi Arabia already has the world on alert: According to the most recent World Health Organization numbers, it’s infected 834 people and caused at least 288 deaths since it first appeared in 2012. Very little is understood about how the virus, which is linked to camels, is transmitted, but a new paper, published Tuesday in the journal mBio, raises a new possibility. CNN explains:

Researchers from King Fahd Medical Research Center in Saudi Arabia collected three air samples from a camel barn. Previously, they had found MERS in a camel from that barn and in its infected owner, who later died from the condition. After analyzing the air sample, the scientists found one strain of MERS RNA, the viral genome.

Interestingly, the barn air tested positive for MERS on the exact same day that one of the nine camels in the barn tested positive for MERS. Also, the virus from the air sample was identical to the virus found in nasal samples from the infected camel and its owner.

“These data show evidence for the presence of the airborne MERS in the same barn that was owned by the patient and sheltered the infected camels,” the study authors write.

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