MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus) is back in the news again this week. Two weeks ago, I mentioned The Lancet study that identified the potential link between dromedary camels and MERS. Last week, a new animal has been found with a potential link to MERS… the bat.
An article in Emerging Infectious Diseases describes a study conducted by the Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia (where 70% of the cases have been found), Columbia University, and EcoHealth Alliance looking at bats as a reservoir for MERS-CoV. The researchers collected samples from bats around the homes and workplaces of people who have had MERS so they could test them for diseases.
The researchers found a wide range of coronaviruses among the bats tested, but only found MERS in one bat. We know that bats are reservoirs for all kinds of diseases like rabies and SARS, so it’s not a stretch to think they could also be carriers of MERS. In all likelihood- future studies will probably find other animals carrying MERS given how far across the Middle East we are seeing MERS cases. Updated information about MERS is available through the CDC. As of August 23rd, 103 cases had been identified (none in the US), almost 50% of which were fatal.