Volume 20, Number 2—February 2014
AbstractReplicative capacity of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was assessed in cell lines derived from livestock and peridomestic small mammals on the Arabian Peninsula. Only cell lines originating from goats and camels showed efficient replication of MERS-CoV. These results provide direction in the search for the intermediate host of MERS-CoV.
In our study, production of infectious virus particles was seen in goat lung and kidney cells and in camelid kidney cells. Excretion patterns indicative of kidney infection should be investigated once further clues to the identity of the MERS-CoV animal reservoir become available. Our preliminary findings suggest that ungulates, such as goats and camels, are a possible intermediate host of MERS-CoV; thus, exposure to urine and feces from these animals might constitute a source of human infection. Moreover, food products derived from these animals (e.g., meat and milk) should be tested for their potential to transmit MERS-CoV. The results of our study suggest that investigations into the MERS-CoV animal reservoir and intermediate host should focus on caprid (e.g., goats) and camelid hosts, and we identified several new cell lines for use in virus isolation studies.
Dr Eckerle is a virologist at the Institute of Virology in Bonn, Germany. Her primary research interest is characterization of novel and emerging zoonotic viruses.