Riyadh science center, Saudi ministries launch MERS research effort
The King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and Saudi Arabia's ministries of health and agriculture have launched a joint program for comprehensive MERS-CoV research on the Middle East, Arab News reported today as the country's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported no MERS cases for the 7th straight day.
KACST Director Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed Al Saud said that, under the agreement, KACST will provide technical and financial support to conduct research on MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) and spearhead the creation of a national database for the virus that will subsequently include all infectious diseases.
Involvement of Saudi universities in the research will also be sought, the story said.
So far MERS-CoV has sickened 1,275 people in Saudi Arabia since 2012, 546 of whom have died, the MOH said in today's update. In the past 7 days, the agency has reported that 4 people have recovered from the disease and 2 have died; 4 patients are still receiving treatment. The most recent case, reported on Nov 3, was in Riyadh.
Nov 10 Arab News story
Nov 10 MOH update
SARS-like bat coronavirus able to jump to humans, researchers say
A coronavirus closely related to the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus appears able to infect human lung cells and jump from bats to people without mutation, according to a study yesterday in Nature Medicine.
University of North Carolina (UNC) researchers inserted the spike protein of a coronavirus found in horseshoe bats in China—called SHC014—into a SARS virus. They then determined in a lab dish that the hybrid virus the virus can latch on to the same human and bat receptor for entry, which shows it is able to jump from bats to people.
The virus also replicated as well as SARS-CoV in primary human airway cells in the lung, the preferred target for infection. The hybrid virus also replicated well in the lungs of mice that were susceptible to SARS.
SARS first jumped from animals to humans in 2002 and caused a worldwide outbreak, resulting in more than 8,000 cases and almost 800 deaths.
"This [SHC014] virus is highly pathogenic and treatments developed against the original SARS virus in 2002 and the ZMapp drugs used to fight Ebola fail to neutralize and control this particular virus," said senior author Ralph Baric, PhD, in a UNC press release today. "So building resources, rather than limiting them, to both examine animal populations for new threats and develop therapeutics is key for limiting future outbreaks."
Nov 9 Nat Med study
Nov 10 UNC press release
Study shows copper surfaces rapidly kill human coronavirus
Surfaces made of copper and copper alloys can inactivate a human coronavirus within minutes—as opposed to days for other surfaces—showing potential to combat MERS-CoV and other respiratory viruses, University of Southampton researchers reported today in mBio.
The team studied 229E, a human coronavirus closely related to MERS and SARS viruses that can cause disease ranging from the common cold to pneumonia. The virus remained infectious for at least 5 days on a range of common surfaces, such as stainless steel, Teflon, PVC, ceramic, glass, and silicone.
On a range of copper alloys, however, 229E was inactivated within a few minutes for a dose that simulated fingertip contamination. "Exposure to copper destroyed the viral genomes and irreversibly affected virus morphology, including disintegration of envelope and dispersal of surface spikes," the author wrote.
Bill Keevil, PhD, one of the study authors, said in a University of Southampton news release, "The rapid inactivation and irreversible destruction of the virus observed on copper and copper alloy surfaces suggests that the incorporation of copper alloy surfaces—in conjunction with effective cleaning regimes and good clinical practice—could help control transmission of these viruses."
Nov 10 mBio study
Nov 10 University of Southampton news release