A new study has found that the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus can cause mild case of MERS disease, but its overall rate of transmission is low.
The researchers carried study on some Saudi Arabian patients in order to find out the transmission behavior of the MERS causing virus and then they found that fewer than half of the participants communicated the virus to their household members. The researchers also found that many of those who developed secondary infections suffered from mild MERS cases.
“If less than half of infected patients transmit the virus to contacts, such as in this study, we can be pretty sure that this virus will not be able to start an epidemic in humans,” said co-author Christian Drosten, from the Institute of Virology at the University of Bonn Medical Center.
MERS virus is believed to be originated in camels. It causes fever, cough and pneumonia. The disease can also be fatal in about a third of its cases.
According to Drosten, the new study has confirmed the deadly behavior of the virus. “Up to 30 percent of first-generation cases will die,” Drosten adds.
For the study, the researchers involved 26 MERS patients who were closely related to 280 family members. Sensitive diagnostic tests were then conducted on all the family members to detect for silent or mild infections. 12 probable cases were identified which researchers say further suggested a secondary transmission rate of about 4 percent.
Drosten said, “These viruses can cause serious human-to-human transmission chains. But they cannot communicate under normal situations like household contacts as investigated here.”
The virus has close association with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS, which claimed around 800 lives worldwide after it appeared in China in 2002. There are no drugs or vaccines so far to treat or prevent MERS.
The doctors have been struggling for long to find out the transmission behavior of the MERS virus that had triggered an outbreak in the Middle East in the year 2012, causing more than 850 cases of infection and 333 deaths worldwide.
The research paper was co-written by former Saudi Arabian deputy health minister Ziad Memish, who was removed from his post for handling of the outbreak.
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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