February 17, 2013
A cohort of 154 French Hajj pilgrims
participating in the 2012 Hajj were systematically sampled using nasal
swab prior to returning to France and screened for the novel HCoV-EMC
coronavirus by two real-time RT-PCR assays. Despite a high rate of
respiratory symptoms (83.4%) including 41.0% influenza like illness, no
case of HCoV-EMC infection was detected.
The above comments from the abstract
of a recent paper entitled “Lack of nasal carriage of novel
coronavirus (HCoV-EMC) in French Hajj pilgrims returning from the Hajj
2012, despite high rate of respiratory symptoms” raise serious concerns
that novel betacornavirus cases associated with Hajj pilgrims are being
missed because screening has focused on samples collected from the
upper respiratory tract, when WHO
recommends testing of samples collected from the lower respiratory tract.