Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus and the One Health concept

PeerJ. 2019 Aug 22:7:e7556. doi: 10.7717/peerj.7556. eCollection 2019.


Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is one of the major threats to the healthcare systems in some countries, especially in the Arabian Peninsula. MERS-CoV is considered an ideal example of the One Health concept. This is due to the animals, especially dromedary camels, play important roles in the transmission and sustainability of the virus, and the virus can be transmitted through aerosols of infected patients into the environment. However, there is some debate regarding the origin of MERS-CoV either from bats or other unknown reservoirs. The dromedary camel is the only identified animal reservoir to date. These animals play important roles in sustaining the virus in certain communities and may act as an amplifier of the virus by secreting it in their body fluids, especially in nasal and rectal discharges. MERS-CoV has been detected in the nasal and rectal secretions of infected camels, and MERS-CoV of this origin has full capacity to infect human airway epithelium in both in vitro and in vivo models. Other evidence confirms the direct transmission of MERS-CoV from camels to humans, though the role of camel meat and milk products has yet to be well studied. Human-to-human transmission is well documented through contact with an active infected patient or some silently infected persons. Furthermore, there are some significant risk factors of individuals in close contact with a positive MERS-CoV patient, including sleeping in the same patient room, removing patient waste (urine, stool, and sputum), and touching respiratory secretions from the index case. Outbreaks within family clusters have been reported, whereby some blood relative patients were infected through their wives in the same house were not infected. Some predisposing genetic factors favor MERS-CoV infection in some patients, which is worth investigating in the near future. The presence of other comorbidities may be another factor. Overall, there are many unknown/confirmed aspects of the virus/human/animal network. Here, the most recent advances in this context are discussed, and the possible reasons behind the emergence and sustainability of MERS-CoV in certain regions are presented. Identification of the exact mechanism of transmission of MERS-CoV from camels to humans and searching for new reservoir/s are of high priority. This will reduce the shedding of the virus into the environment, and thus the risk of human infection can be mitigated.

Keywords: Dromedary camel; Human; MERS-CoV; One Health concept; Reservoir; Transmision; Zoonosis.

Grants and funding

This work was funded by a grant from the King Abdul-Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), through the MERS-CoV research grant program (number 20-0004), which is part of the Targeted Research Program (TRP). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.