What is MERS and Causes of MERS?


The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), first detected in Saudi Arabia, causes severe lung disease and is fatal in 30%.

The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (or simply MERS) is a zoonotic viral disease transmitted by a new coronavirus (the MERS-CoV). It was first described in 2012 in Saudi Arabia when Dr. Ali Mohamed Zaki isolated the microorganism in a patient with severe lung disease.

This virus belongs to the coronavirus family, which usually causes cold symptoms and mild colds. However, this coronavirus is very aggressive and completely new; it is suspected that it could have an animal origin and that it mutated from a bat virus, which could be transmitted to camels.

Thus, dromedaries are also pointed out as an animal source of human infection, both through direct and indirect contact (their milk) with an infected animal.

Suppose the virus is transmitted to a human being. In that case, it causes a dangerous respiratory infection that results in symptoms similar to those of the flu or pneumonia, affecting all the body’s systems and can cause the death of the human being.

Affected between 3-5 cases out of 10 ( mortality rate approximately 35%), especially if the patient already suffered from another disease before infection.

Since 2012, around 80%, according to WHO data, have occurred in the Middle East. The rest are distributed in 27 countries. The countries that have detected the most cases are Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Yemen, Jordan, and Lebanon. But the mobility of travelers between continents is a reality today, which is why there have been isolated cases of MERS infections in many other countries globally, including the UK, France, USA, Greece, Egypt, Netherlands, Italy, Tunisia, Malaysia, and a case in Spain.

This makes MERS a global infectious disease that puts all governments around the world on alert. Prevention methods are currently being studied, which may be similar to those established to avoid contagion by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Despite all this, fortunately, person-to-person contagion is limited, and outbreaks only appear in isolation among those affected, in hospitals or work centers.

The number of cases worldwide is still very low, close to 2,500 according to 2019 data (the number of deaths from MERS globally is around 850), which allows the WHO to affirm that this pathology remains low for the moment. Control and that, as of today, does not meet the requirements to declare it an international public health emergency.

Causes of MERS

The cause of the dreaded Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus is a small virus (MERS-Cov) of the coronavirus family. For decades, these viruses have been the leading cause of the common cold or upper airway cold.

However, the MERS virus is much more aggressive on an individual level, although it is more difficult to transmit from person to person. It is also a completely new virus for our immune system, so our body’s defenses fight it much worse.

It is suspected that this virus may have mutated from another coronavirus originating from bats since genetic similarities of more than 90% are found.

How is MERS spread

The spread of the MERS virus is similar to that of other respiratory viruses. The secretions of sick people (saliva, mucus) can contain viruses transmitted by direct contact, coughing, or sneezing. As we have said, person-to-person contagion is more limited than previously thought.

The cases described have caused small self-limited outbreaks in their immediate surroundings where they live or work and in the treated hospitals. This type of transmission is difficult to occur unless it is a close contact in which protective measures have not been taken, such as caring for an infected patient.

It is unknown how the virus got to humans or if it is still transmitted from animals. Direct contact with bats does not seem a possibility. However, it may be the origin of the virus because it has not been correlated with an increase in rabies cases, nor is it a frequent animal in the Middle East.

The coronavirus has been isolated in other animals, such as camels. This animal, which is very common in Arab countries, could be a contagion vehicle for humans, although the chain of transmission is still unknown.

Once the virus reaches humans and reaches the airways, it multiplies in the bronchi’s epithelium.

There it causes an acute respiratory infection that quickly produces respiratory symptoms similar to the flu or pneumonia. The disease produces a global alteration of all the apparatus and systems. It thus can be fatal in up to half of the cases, especially when the affected person had an underlying disease.

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