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Rev Sci Tech. 2019 May;38(1):61-69. doi: 10.20506/rst.38.1.2941.

Middle East respiratory syndrome: making the case for surveillance of transboundary coronaviruses in the Middle East.


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Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a zoonotic viral disease identified in both animals and human beings. More than 2,200 laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported in humans from 27 countries, with a crude case fatality rate of 35% since the disease's emergence in the Middle East in 2012. In the coming years, MERS will continue to pose a severe threat to economic development as well as to the elimination of poverty and advances in food security. An important gap in the effort to keep MERS at bay is the lack of surveillance of animals in the Middle East. The authors identify the need for international collaboration to conduct MERS coronavirus (CoV) surveillance in animals in the Middle East, since the emergence of new MERS-CoV variants with the ability to sustain efficient person-to-person transmission is a genuine threat. However, effective surveillance will be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. There are multiple obstacles in the region to overcome, including a lack of transparency as governments in the Middle East generally do not disclose detailed information on animal diseases. In addition, there is minimal collaboration between local and international agencies in both the human and animal health sectors and a limited number of readily available qualified laboratories to screen animals for MERS- CoV. Last, but not least, there is a lack of adequate active communication between all relevant laboratories, local and abroad. However, with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and other partners, the responsibility of the Mediterranean Zoonosis Control Centre in Athens, Greece, could be widened to include the countries of the Middle East. This would foster a stronger alliance and far more effective collaboration in the spirit of One Health.


Control; Coronavirus; Epidemiology; MERS; Middle East; Middle East respiratory syndrome; Surveillance; Transboundary diseases

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