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Co-circulation of three camel coronavirus species and recombination of MERS-CoVs in Saudi Arabia

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Science  17 Dec 2015:
aac8608
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac8608

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Abstract

Outbreaks of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) raise questions about the prevalence and evolution of the MERS coronavirus (CoV) in its animal reservoir. Our surveillance in Saudi Arabia in 2014 and 2015 showed that viruses of the MERS-CoV species and a human CoV 229E–related lineage co-circulated at high prevalence, with frequent co-infections in the upper respiratory tract of dromedary camels. Including a betacoronavirus 1 species, we found that dromedary camels share three CoV species with humans. Several MERS-CoV lineages were present in camels, including a recombinant lineage that has been dominant since December 2014 and that subsequently led to the human outbreaks in 2015. Camels therefore serve as an important reservoir for the maintenance and diversification of the MERS-CoVs and are the source of human infections with this virus.

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