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An experimental study demonstrates that llamas and pigs are susceptible to the virus MERS-CoV

In an article published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, researchers from the IRTA-CReSA in collaboration with researchers from the Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam (the Netherlands), studied the susceptibility of different animal species to infection with MERS-CoV. The selection of species was based on in silico studies of the virus receptor (DPP4 or the Dipeptidyl peptidase-4) on a large panel of animals in comparison with the human receptor and camels. Previous studies that demonstrate a level of susceptibility in in vitro cell cultures of different animal to the MERS-CoV infection were also taken into account. Four species were selected based on those criteria: sheep, pig, horse and llama.

Emerg Infect Dis. 2017 Feb;23(2):232-240. doi: 10.3201/eid2302.161239. Livestock Susceptibility to Infection with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus. Vergara-Alert J, van den Brand JM, Widagdo W, Muñoz M 5th, Raj S, Schipper D, Solanes D, Cordón I, Bensaid A, Haagmans BL, Segalés J.

The results of the study showed that both llamas and pigs are susceptible to infection with MERS-CoV; thus, raising the possibility of circulation of this virus in other animal species apart from camels and alpacas.

Currently IRTA-CReSA researchers are conducting further studies to evaluate the possible role that could play these species in the transmission of the virus, as well as the importance of DPP4 distribution related to the susceptibility and pathogenesis of MERS-CoV.

The Middle East respiratory syndrome or MERS is an infectious disease caused by a coronavirus, named MERS-CoV. This virus was first detected in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The symptoms in humans range from mild to moderate (fever, cough, and breathing problems) and severe, even causing the death of the individual (30% of cases). The main reservoir of the virus is the dromedary camel, but recent studies have demonstrated the susceptibility of other animal species, such as alpaca (another camelid), infection with MERS-CoV (Emerg Infect Dis. 2016 Jun; 22(6):1129-31; Emerg Infect Dis. 2016 Jun; 22 (6): 1031-7).