Screening for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus infection in hospital patients and their healthcare worker and family contacts: a prospective descriptive study

Clin Microbiol Infect. 2014 May;20(5):469-74. doi: 10.1111/1469-0691.12562. Epub 2014 Feb 17.


The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health implemented a pro-active surveillance programme for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus (MERS-CoV). We report MERS-CoV data from 5065 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia individuals who were screened for MERS-CoV over a 12-month period. From 1 October 2012 to 30 September 2013, demographic and clinical data were prospectively collected from all laboratory forms received at the Saudi Arabian Virology reference laboratory. Data were analysed by referral type, age, gender, and MERS-CoV real-time PCR test results. Five thousand and 65 individuals were screened for MER-CoV: hospitalized patients with suspected MERS-CoV infection (n = 2908, 57.4%), healthcare worker (HCW) contacts (n = 1695; 33.5%), and family contacts of laboratory-confirmed MERS cases (n = 462; 9.1%). Eleven per cent of persons tested were children (<17 years of age). There were 108 cases (99 adults and nine children) of MERS-CoV infection detected during the 12-month period (108/5065, 2% case detection rate). Of 108 cases, 45 were females (six children and 39 adults) and 63 were males (three children and 60 adults). Of the 99 adults with MERS-CoV infection, 70 were hospitalized patients, 19 were HCW contacts, and ten were family contacts. There were no significant increases in MERS-CoV detection rates over the 12-month period: 2.6% (19/731) in July 2013, 1.7% (19/1100) in August 2013, and 1.69% (21/1238) in September 2013. Male patients had a significantly higher MERS-CoV infection rate (63/2318, 2.7%) than females (45/2747, 1.6%) (p 0.013). MERS-CoV rates remain at low levels, with no significant increase over time. Pro-active surveillance for MERS-CoV in newly diagnosed patients and their contacts will continue.

Keywords: Clinical; MERS-CoV; Middle East; SARS; coronavirus; demographic; diagnosis; real-time PCR; sample type; screening; viral load.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / diagnosis*
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Family
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus / genetics
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus / isolation & purification*
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Saudi Arabia / epidemiology
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult