Bats can carry MERS | Science News


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Bats can carry MERS

DNA of deadly respiratory virus found in Saudi Arabian mammal

6:12pm, August 22, 2013

The virus that causes a deadly new respiratory disease known as Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, has been found in a bat in Saudi Arabia. The finding suggests that animals may transfer the virus to humans.

The disease was first diagnosed in a Saudi Arabian man last September. Since then, 99 people have gotten sick from the virus and 48 of them died. Scientists know that the coronavirus that causes the disease is related to the one that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and to viruses carried by bats. But they haven’t figured out how the virus got into humans. None of the sick people had any known contact with bats.

Recently, however, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health worked with researchers from Columbia University and EcoHealth Alliance to catch bats that live near the home and business of the first man diagnosed with MERS. The team took blood samples, small pieces of bats’ wings, and throat and rectal swabs from the animals.

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