Invasive Species Compendium

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Abstract

The prevalence of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) antibodies in dromedary camels in Israel.

Abstract

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, MERS-CoV, was identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, and as of January 29, 2018, there were 2,123 laboratory-confirmed MERS-CoV cases reported to WHO (WHO, 2018, https://www.who.int/emergencies/mers-cov/en/). Multiple studies suggest that dromedary camels are a source for human MERS-CoV infection. MERS-CoV-specific antibodies have been detected in the serum of dromedary camels across Northern Africa and across the Arabian Peninsula. Israel's geographic location places Israel at risk for MERS-CoV infection. To date, MERS-CoV-related illness has not been reported and the burden of MERS-CoV infection in the Israeli population is unknown. The seroprevalence of MERS-CoV-specific antibodies in Israeli dromedary camels is unknown. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of MERS-CoV seropositivity in dromedary camels in Israel. The prevalence of MERS-CoV antibodies in Israeli camels was examined in 71 camel sera collected from four farms across Israel by MERS-CoV-specific microneutralization (Mnt) assay and confirmed by MERS-CoV-specific immunofluorescence assay (IFA). Although this study cannot rule out potential antibody cross-reactivity by IFA, the presence of bovine coronavirus-specific antibodies do not appear to impact detection of MERS-CoV antibodies by Mnt. MERS-CoV neutralizing antibodies were detectable in 51 (71.8%) camel sera, and no association was observed between the presence of neutralizing antibodies and camel age or gender. These findings extend the known range of MERS-CoV circulation in Middle Eastern camels. The high rate of MERS-CoV-specific antibody seropositivity in dromedary camels in the absence of any reported human MERS cases suggests that there is still much to be learned about the dynamics of camel-to-human transmission of MERS-CoV.