Wednesday, 7 May 2014

MERS-CoV in Australian camels? The search is underway...

I have been asked a few times about whether Australia is testing its large feral camel population (approx 300,000 animals [3,6,7]; Australia also exports camels [5]) for the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). 

I put that specific inquiry to Mr Gary Crameri, the Stream Leader for Emerging Zoonotic Disease at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's (CSIRO) Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL)[1]. You can also see a little more about Gary and MERS-CoV here [2]

And, as per comments below, it looks like Australia is now in a good position to study many aspects of the MERS-CoV. 
We are indeed the lab doing this work MERS is one of the many viruses we research and is of particular interest to us given its relationship to SARS and our global role as a WHO Collaborating Centre for SARS. We are currently investigating MERS as part of our national mission to research and understand the processes by which new diseases emerge and spread.
Some background on CSIRO AAHL.[1]

AAHL has a national responsibility to protect Australia’s animals and people by delivering science that will further our understanding and management of infectious diseases. This work includes diagnostic and surveillance activities, which currently includes MERS in bats and camels. Our research also includes comparative immunology and genome sequencing to study the evolution and transmission pathways of new viruses to help us manage the risks such viruses pose to both animals and people.
AAHL officially opened a new biosecure immunology laboratory yesterday [4] and work has begun there on the MERS virus to study how different hosts’ immune system responds to the virus.
More information about what and how and why will follow in the future.

References...
  1. http://www.csiro.au/aahl
  2. http://theconversation.com/sars-mers-preparing-for-the-next-coronavirus-pandemic-16359
  3. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-21/feral-camel-culling-report/5105884
  4. http://www.csiro.au/en/Portals/Media/New-antivirals-closer-with-opening-of-new-laboratory.aspx
  5. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2038834.stm
  6. http://www.australian-information-stories.com/camels-in-australia.html
  7. http://www.paddymchugh.com/camels.html
  8. http://www.abc.net.au/landline/stories/s584460.htm