New Research Shows Noticable Differences Between New Virus And SARS

9:48 AM, Jun 27, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Upcoming research published in The Lancet Infectious Disease shows the first clinical description of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and how the virus moves through the body. 

There is little medical data on the MERS-CoV currently. This report represents a 73-year-old man from Abu Dhabi, who passed away in Munich in April 2013 from contracting the MERS-CoV. This man is only the fifth patient for whom the virus has been documented in a medical journal. 

The patient was admitted to a hospital in Abu Dhabi two days after developing flu-like symptoms, where he was in diagnosed with pneumonia. He was then given antibiotics and received artificial ventilation. 

After 12 days of being ill, the patient was then flown to a hospital in Munich. After having debilitating respiratory symptoms, he then suffered kidney failure and died, 18 days after being sick.

After being admitted to the Munich hospital, researchers frequently recorded the patient's viral load. The highest concentration was found in the lower respiratory tract, backing up previous findings. Small, but noticeable viral loads were also detected in urine and stool samples, but not in the patient's blood.

The virus's presence in urine may signify that it has the ability to reproduce in the patient's kidneys. This may also clarify why the patient - as well as two other patients in France - experienced kidney failure.

Nonetheless, researchers also state that the antibiotics the patients received may have also disrupted kidney function. So more research is needed to understand where and how the virus replicates in the body after the initial infection.

Small concentrations of the virus in stool samples also indicate a significant difference in comparing how the MERS-CoV runs through the body to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus, where distinguishable concentrations tended to be found in stool. The authors say that "learning more about where and how virus circulates will have critical implications for diagnosis and infection control."

A lead author in the study, Professor Christian Drosten claims, "laboratory data like these are critical to reach recommendations for diagnostics, to make projections about the prognosis of the patient, as well as to estimate infection risks."

"In the absence of qualitative laboratory data from well documented MERS cases, most of these considerations were up to now made upon an assumed analogy to SARS. However, we're now finding that certain elementary traits of the MERS virus appear to be different to SARS," adds Drosten.

Co-lead author of the study Professor Clemens-Martin Wendtner says, "With only five complete genome sequences so far available there is an urgent need for more genetic data to reveal the spatial and temporal distribution of these cases, estimate the number of independent human chains of transmission, and thus better evaluate the threat this virus poses to world health."


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