MERS-CoV geography and ecology in the Middle East: Analyses of reported camel exposures and a preliminary risk map

Reeves T. ; Samy A. ; Peterson A. 


Background: Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has spread rapidly across much of the Middle East, but no quantitative mapping of transmission risk has been developed to date. Moreover, details of the transmission cycle of the virus remain unclear, particularly regarding the role of camels as a reservoir host for human infections. Methods: We present a first analysis of the environmental circumstances under which MERS-CoV cases have occurred in the Middle East, covering all case occurrences through May 2015, using ecological niche modeling approaches to map transmission risk. We compare the environmental breadth of conditions under which cases have reported camel contacts with that of the broader population of all cases, to assess whether camel-associated cases occur under a more restricted set of environmental circumstances. Results: We documented geographic and environmental distributions of MERS-CoV cases across the Middle East, and offer preliminary mapping of transmission risk. We confirm the idea that climatic dimensions of camel-associated cases are more constrained and less variable than the broader suite of case occurrences; hence, camel exposure may be a key limiting element in MERS-CoV transmission. Conclusion: This study offers a first detailed geographic and environmental analysis of MERS-CoV distributions across the Middle East. Results indicated that camel-exposed cases occur under a narrower suite of environmental conditions than non-camel-exposed cases, suggesting perhaps a key role for camels in the transmission of the disease, and perhaps a narrower area of risk for 'primary,' camel-derived cases of MERS.

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Issue Date 18-Dec-2015
Journal BMC Research Notes 

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