It took roughly a year after the first human infection with MERS-CoV was announced out of Saudi Arabia for dromedary camels to be identified as a host species for the MERS coronavirus (see 2013’s The Lancet Camels Found With Antibodies To MERS-CoV-Like Virus). While bats are believed to be the primary host reservoir for MERS, SARS, and an array of other novel pathogens (see Curr. Opinion Virology: Viruses In Bats & Potential Spillover To Animals And Humans), the hunt continues for other susceptible species where these viruses may reside.
Source: Avian Flu Diary: Emerg. Microbe & Inf: MERS Infection In Non-Camelid Domestic Mammals
NH: There had been a significant increase in date tree cultivation in Saudi Arabia to serve increased worldwide demand for dates. That increase led naturally to an increase in the bat population and the possibilities of a new variant of disease to be passed on to animals and humans.
New viruses had all the building blocks of the human virus, and lab exeriments found that some are equipped with the same capacity to enter human cells.
Source: Bat cave study finds new clues about SARS virus origin
“Bats get out of control and produce more viruses when humans create more fruit plantations – there has been a huge increase in date fruit production in Saudia Arabia – home of the MERS outbreak.”
The study shows that bats carry a significantly higher proportion of viruses able to infect people than any other group of mammals; and it identifies the species and geographic regions on the planet with the highest number of yet-to-be discovered, or ‘missing’, viruses likely to infect people. This work provides a new way to predict where and how we should work to identify and pre-empt the next potential viral pandemic before it emerges.
Source: Inoreader – EID Journal: A New Bat-HKU2–like Coronavirus in Swine, China, 2017
Taken together, the findings suggest that high contact rates among bats enable them to acquire and spread coronaviruses, the authors concluded.
Source: Researchers find novel bat coronaviruses, akin to MERS, SARS | CIDRAP
David Hayman of Massey University notes, “The model allows us to move beyond our own biases and find patterns in the data that only a machine can. Instead of predicting where Ebola and other filovirus outbreaks will occur by looking at the last spillover event, it forecasts risk based on the intrinsic traits of filovirus-positive bat species.”Those traits include: early maturity, having more than one pup per year (most bats only have one), offspring that are large at birth, and a tendency to live in large groups. Compared to other bats, filovirus-positive species also have broader geographic ranges that overlap with a higher diversity of mammal species per square kilometer.When data on the world’s 1116 bat species were searched using this filovirus-positive bat profile, machine learning identified new potential hosts based on their traits. Once mapped, these bats were more widely distributed than the team expected. While many potential bat hosts are found in sub-Saharan Africa, they also range across Southeast Asia and Central and South America.Han explains, “Our results corroborate studies in Africa that have predicted the environmental niche of Ebola spans the primary tropical rainforest. But in a departure from past research, we identified several hotspots in Southeast Asia where up to 26 potential reservoir species overlap, notably in Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Vietnam, and northeast India.”John Drake of the University of Georgia concludes, “Maps generated by the algorithm can help guide targeted surveillance and virus discovery projects. We suspect there may be other filoviruses waiting to be found. An outstanding question for future work is to investigate why there are so few filovirus spillover events reported for humans and wildlife in Southeast Asia compared to equatorial Africa.”
Source: Artificial intelligence reveals undiscovered bat carriers of Ebola and other filoviruses | Science Codex
The worst is yet to come: New virus even deadlier than Ebola, Zika may emerge, warn Swiss scientists Andre Mitchell 23 March 2016 Email Print More Sharing Services Share (Wikipedia) Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that have a halo, or crown-like (corona) appearance when viewed under an electron microscope. The coronavirus is now recognised as the etiologic agent of the 2003 SARS outbreak. In 2014, the Ebola virus outbreak killed more than 11,000 people in Africa. This year, the Zika virus is currently affecting millions of people and even unborn children in South America, prompting the declaration of a public health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO). If you think you’ve seen the worst in terms of deadly diseases, think again. In a study published last week in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” scientists from Switzerland warned that a deadlier virus may emerge, causing more illnesses and deaths. According to a report on WND.com, the Swiss scientists described the virus as something similar to the one which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS, which killed over 700 people during an outbreak in southern China from November 2002 to July 2003. The virus, which is called “WIV1-CoV,” may come from zoonotic sources, meaning it may be transmitted from animals to human beings. It is likely to exhibit flu-like symptoms which will eventually escalate into pneumonia. “Focusing on the SARS-like viruses, the results indicate that the WIV1-coronavirus (CoV) cluster has the ability to directly infect and may undergo limited transmission in human populations,” the researchers wrote in their study. Lead researcher Dr. Vineet Menachery of Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill explained that the transmission of this new virus to humans is not yet a certainty, but if it happens, the scenario is discouraging. “This virus may never jump to humans, but if it does, WIV1-CoV has the potential to seed a new outbreak with significant consequences for both public health and the global economy,” the lead scientist explained.
Source: The worst is yet to come: New virus even deadlier than Ebola, Zika may emerge, warn Swiss scientists | Christian News on Christian Today
There have been no viral gene or genome sequences from 2016 arriving on the interwebs yet, so we are left with a few of the old questions…again is this all normal or is something different this time around? has this season’s MERS-CoV undergone a significant genetic change(s), affecting stability, tropism or transmission? has infection control and prevention slipped again? is there more contact with infected camels this year? are increased camel descriptions an indication of better surveillance and questioning about camel contact? Time to start watching and plotting MERS-CoV again.
Source: VDU’s blog: Tread carefully when MERS-CoV stirs in hospitals as it can spiral out of control quickly..
The point is, we should have anticipated that the large increase in mosquitoes would create a major health crisis. Just as we should have anticipated that a deadly hemorrhagic disease caused by the Ebola virus would emerge one day from the remote forests and threaten the vast slums of the rapidly growing megacities of Africa. We should now anticipate that the MERS virus will result in more deadly outbreaks outside of the Arabian Peninsula, as it did in Seoul, South Korea. We should anticipate that viruses such as Venezuelan equine encephalitis may spread from their jungle homes and be even more deadly than Zika.
Even more than these viruses, we should be afraid of a planet-wide catastrophe caused by influenza. The best way to avert a pandemic is to develop a game-changing universal influenza vaccine. All these crises are largely predictable and we can do much in advance to lessen the effects and diminish the spread. And believe me, the cost of acting now will be infinitely less than the cost of not acting in the long run.
Source: How Scared Should You Be About Zika? – The New York Times
Fear isn’t useless. It’s essential that we maintain the tension between individual liberties and community health, and expressing fears, particularly competing fears, is one way that’s done. Public skepticism helps ensure decision-makers do enough to minimize disease without abusing power or diminishing civil liberties. Still, it’s vital to keep paranoia in check. The theorist Eve Sedgwick posits that, like typhoid and measles, paranoia is communicable. We pass it along to those we interact with. This happened when the media responded to Dr. Spencer’s Ebola infection and it continues to happen in the ongoing debate about childhood vaccinations and measles. Paranoia distorts decision-making, which is part of the reason that a hundred years after Mary Mallon’s isolation began on North Brother Island, we still struggle to conceptualize the relationship between community and individual health. When it comes to disease, whether we acknowledge it or not, we’re part of the public. The public isn’t an abstraction. It’s us.
Source: Anya Groner: The Public Is Us – Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
As with Ebola, there are few, if any, tools currently available to use in the case of a major outbreak of MERS. Experts point to last spring’s crippling outbreak in South Korea — 186 cases, 37 deaths, hospitals closed to new admissions, all stemming from a businessman who came home sick from the Middle East — as evidence of the danger of underestimating the coronavirus.Because the MERS virus can be transmitted through coughs and sneezes, its spread could be even more difficult to stop than Ebola, which people only catch if they have contact with blood and body fluids.You can generally avoid someone else’s bodily fluids, if you know you need to. But breathing is not an optional endeavor.
Source: Learning from Ebola: Why MERS needs to be taken seriously