The Middle East respiratory syndrome or MERS is an infectious disease caused by a coronavirus, named MERS-CoV. This virus was first detected in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The symptoms in humans range from mild to moderate (fever, cough, and breathing problems) and severe, even causing the death of the individual (30% of cases). The main reservoir of the virus is the dromedary camel, but recent studies have demonstrated the susceptibility of other animal species, such as alpaca (another camelid), infection with MERS-CoV. To determine whether other animals are potential reservoirs, we inoculated MERS-CoV into llamas, pigs, sheep, and horses and collected nasal and rectal swab samples at various times.
To determine whether other animals are potential reservoirs, we inoculated MERS-CoV into llamas, pigs, sheep, and horses and collected nasal and rectal swab samples at various times. The presence of MERS-CoV in the nose of pigs and llamas was confirmed by PCR, titration of infectious virus, immunohistochemistry, and in situ hybridization; seroconversion was detected in animals of both species. Conversely, in sheep and horses, virus-specific antibodies did not develop and no evidence of viral replication in the upper respiratory tract was found.
The results of the study showed that both llamas and pigs are susceptible to infection with MERS-CoV; thus, raising the possibility of circulation of this virus in other animal species apart from camels and alpacas.
Currently IRTA-CReSA researchers are conducting further studies to evaluate the possible role that could play these species in the transmission of the virus, as well as the importance of DPP4 distribution related to the susceptibility and pathogenesis of MERS-CoV.
Vergara-Alert J, van den Brand JM, Widagdo W, Muñoz M 5th, Raj S, Schipper D, Solanes D, Cordón I, Bensaid A, Haagmans BL, Segalés J. Livestock Susceptibility to Infection with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. Emerg Infect Dis. 2017 Feb;23(2):232-240. doi: 10.3201/eid2302.161239.