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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Mar 20;115(12):3144-3149. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1718769115. Epub 2018 Mar 5.

MERS coronaviruses from camels in Africa exhibit region-dependent genetic diversity.

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School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Republic of China.
Animal, Santé, Territoires, Risques et Ecosystèmes, Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Université de Montpellier, F-34398 Montpellier, France.
Maladies Infectieuses et Vecteurs: Ecologie, Génétique, Evolution et Contrôle, L'Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, CNRS, Universitè de Montpellier, F-34398 Montpellier, France.
Institute of Virology, Campus Charite Mitte, Charite-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, 10117 Berlin, Germany.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242.
State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Disease, National Clinical Research Center for Respiratory Disease, Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Disease, The First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, Guangdong, Republic of China 510000.
Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA 98109.
Department of Surgery, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria.
Laboratoire de Biologie et Santé Animals, L'Institut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles du Burkina Faso/Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique, 04 BP 8645 Ouagadougou 04, Burkina Faso.
Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire, Hassan II Université, B.P. 6202 Rabat-Instituts, Rabat, Morocco.
Bacterial, Parasitic and Zoonotic Diseases Research Directorate, Ethiopian Public Health Institute, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
College of Veterinary Medecine, Haramaya University, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.
Department of Pathology, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China.
Department of Pathology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242.
Department of Veterinary Microbiology, Immunology and Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture, Addis Ababa University, Bishoftu, Ethiopia.
Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, College of Veterinary Medicine, King Faisal University, Al-Hasa, Saudi Arabia.
Department of Virology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Kafrelsheikh University, Kafrelsheikh, Egypt.
Department of Infectious Diseases, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105.
Kasetsart University, 10900 Bangkok, Thailand.
Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, EH9 2FL Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.
Institut Pasteur du Cambodge, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Republic of China;


Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) causes a zoonotic respiratory disease of global public health concern, and dromedary camels are the only proven source of zoonotic infection. Although MERS-CoV infection is ubiquitous in dromedaries across Africa as well as in the Arabian Peninsula, zoonotic disease appears confined to the Arabian Peninsula. MERS-CoVs from Africa have hitherto been poorly studied. We genetically and phenotypically characterized MERS-CoV from dromedaries sampled in Morocco, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. Viruses from Africa (clade C) are phylogenetically distinct from contemporary viruses from the Arabian Peninsula (clades A and B) but remain antigenically similar in microneutralization tests. Viruses from West (Nigeria, Burkina Faso) and North (Morocco) Africa form a subclade, C1, that shares clade-defining genetic signatures including deletions in the accessory gene ORF4b Compared with human and camel MERS-CoV from Saudi Arabia, virus isolates from Burkina Faso (BF785) and Nigeria (Nig1657) had lower virus replication competence in Calu-3 cells and in ex vivo cultures of human bronchus and lung. BF785 replicated to lower titer in lungs of human DPP4-transduced mice. A reverse genetics-derived recombinant MERS-CoV (EMC) lacking ORF4b elicited higher type I and III IFN responses than the isogenic EMC virus in Calu-3 cells. However, ORF4b deletions may not be the major determinant of the reduced replication competence of BF785 and Nig1657. Genetic and phenotypic differences in West African viruses may be relevant to zoonotic potential. There is an urgent need for studies of MERS-CoV at the animal-human interface.


Africa; MERS; coronavirus; evolution; zoonosis

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