MERS-CoV at the Animal–Human Interface: Inputs on Exposure Pathways from an Expert-Opinion Elicitation

crédit photo : Eve Miguel
Anna L. Funk, Flavie Luce Goutard, Eve Miguel, imageMathieu Bourgarel2 Veronique Chevalier, Bernard Faye, J. S. Malik Peiris, Maria D. Van Kerkhove and Francois Louis Roger

Front. Vet. Sci., 05 October 2016

Nearly 4 years after the first report of the emergence of Middle-East respiratory syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and nearly 1800 human cases later, the ecology of MERS-CoV, its epidemiology, and more than risk factors of MERS-CoV transmission between camels are poorly understood. Knowledge about the pathways and mechanisms of transmission from animals to humans is limited; as of yet, transmission risks have not been quantified. Moreover the divergent sanitary situations and exposures to animals among populations in the Arabian Peninsula, where human primary cases appear to dominate, vs. other regions in the Middle East and Africa, with no reported human clinical cases and where the virus has been detected only in dromedaries, represents huge scientific and health challenges. Here, we have used expert-opinion elicitation in order to obtain ideas on relative importance of MERS-CoV risk factors and estimates of transmission risks from various types of contact between humans and dromedaries. Fourteen experts with diverse and extensive experience in MERS-CoV relevant fields were enrolled and completed an online questionnaire that examined pathways based on several scenarios, e.g., camels–camels, camels–human, bats/other species to camels/humans, and the role of diverse biological substances (milk, urine, etc.) and potential fomites. Experts believed that dromedary camels play the largest role in MERS-CoV infection of other dromedaries; however, they also indicated a significant influence of the season (i.e. calving or weaning periods) on transmission risk. All experts thought that MERS-CoV-infected dromedaries and asymptomatic humans play the most important role in infection of humans, with bats and other species presenting a possible, but yet undefined, risk. Direct and indirect contact of humans with dromedary camels were identified as the most risky types of contact, when compared to consumption of various camel products, with estimated “most likely” incidence risks of at least 22 and 13% for direct and indirect contact, respectively. The results of our study are consistent with available, yet very limited, published data regarding the potential pathways of transmission of MERS-CoV at the animal–human interface. These results identify key knowledge gaps and highlight the need for more comprehensive, yet focused research to be conducted to better understand transmission between dromedaries and humans.

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