Saudi Arabia notes MERS case, upcoming meeting

After going 8 days without a MERS-CoV case, Saudi Arabia officials today reported a new lab-confirmed case in a man who was infected in a Riyadh healthcare setting, as well as plans for an upcoming meeting on a vaccine against the disease.

Saudi Arabia had reported a surge of infections over the past few months, much of it linked to a large hospital outbreak in Riyadh, along similar outbreaks in other cities. At the height of the activity spike there were more than 60 people in treatment at one time, but as of today only four are still in treatment

Latest patient not health worker

The newest confirmed case involves a 47-year-old male expatriate in Riyadh who contracted MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) in the healthcare setting but is not a health worker, the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement. He is hospitalized in critical condition.

Riyadh's large hospital outbreak involves 187 infections reported from the city since Jul 21. Some of them were linked to a cluster of young foreign women who shared an apartment and worked as janitors at a university near the city.

The previous case in Riyadh, reported on Nov 3, involved a 70-year-old man who was said to have a primary infection. The man could be the patient mentioned in an MOH statement yesterday as the latest fatality from the disease. The agency said the 70-year-old man who died was from Riyadh and had an underlying health condition.

The two developments lift Saudi Arabia's overall total to 1,276 cases, 547 of them fatal.

Plan for MERS consortium

In a separate announcement today, the MOH said the health minister has pulled together an international conference on MERS-CoV vaccine research to be held on Nov 14 and Nov 15 at King Abdulaziz City for Sciences and Technology (KACST) in Riyadh.

Ministry spokesman Faisal bin Saeed Al-Zahrani said in a statement that 87 experts are expected to attend the conference, where participants will review recent scientific papers and proposals submitted by research companies. He added that one of the event's goals is to form an in international consortium that would include the Saudi MOH, the World Health Organization, the US National Institutes of Health, and the International Vaccine Institute. The consortium would support research and work to develop immunotherapy options and a MERS-CoV vaccine.

Joining Saudi researchers at the conference will be scientists from the United States, Canada, South Korea, China, the Netherlands, Australia, and Germany. The MOH added that the conference is part of its efforts to battle the spread of the virus.

The meeting announcement is the ministry's second to address MERS research this week. Earlier this week the MOH and KACST announced a joint program with the country's agriculture ministry to conduct MERS-CoV research and create a national database for the virus.

See also:

Nov 12 Saudi MOH statement

Nov 11 Saudi MOH statement

Nov 12 Saudi MOH vaccine research meeting announcement

Nov 10 CIDRAP News scan "Riyadh science center, Saudi ministries launch MERS research effort"

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