WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
A man wearing a mask poses with camels at a camel market in Riyadh. REUTERS photo
Researchers said June 4 they have found the first direct evidence that the potentially deadly Middle East respiratory virus, or MERS, jumps directly from camels to humans.
The virus has hit Saudi Arabia the hardest, killing 282 people out of 688 infected, according to the latest figures.
The latest findings in the New England Journal of Medicine are based on a 44-year-old Saudi man who kept a herd of nine camels and who died of MERS in November 2013. His friends said they witnessed him applying a topical medicine to the nose of one of his ill camels, four of them were reportedly sick with nasal discharge, seven days before he himself became stricken with MERS.
Researchers sequenced the virus found in one of the sick camels and the virus that killed the man, and found that their genomes were identical.
MERS is considered a deadlier but less transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that appeared in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.