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MERS-CoV doesn’t yet have pandemic potential: Study

Last Updated: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 17:13

Zee Media Bureau

London: The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) which was first detected in Saudi Arabia last year does not have pandemic potential yet, according to a new study.

The study was conducted by French scientists at the Pasteur Institute in Paris to estimate the rate at which the virus is transmitted from person to person.

The MERS-CoV is closely related to the SARS which infected more than 8,000 people worldwide in 2002-2003 and nearly 800 deaths were linked to it.

The scientists studied 55 of the 64 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV reported as of June 21, 2013, and used Bayesian analysis to estimate the basic reproduction number (R0) and compared it to that of prepandemic SARS. They calculated that the worst-case scenario for MERS was an R of 0.69, compared with 0.8 for the SARS virus.

"MERS has not spread as rapidly or as widely as SARS did," said lead author Arnaud Fontanet. "SARS` adaption to humans took just several months, whereas MERS has already been circulating more than a year in human populations without mutating into a pandemic form."

Till June 26, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had put the laboratory-confirmed cases at 77 with 40 deaths.

On Wednesday, there were two further deaths in Saudi Arabia and another in Britain on Thursday.

“We recommend enhanced surveillance, active contact tracing, and vigorous searches for the MERS-CoV animal hosts and transmission routes to human beings,” said Fontanet.

The study was published in the British medical journal The Lancet.

First Published: Friday, July 5, 2013 - 17:13
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