Sunday 8 September 2013

Hafr Al Batin MERS-CoV cluster grows...

Click to enlarge. The red circle indicates Hafr Al Batin in the north east of the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Apart from Riyadh's latest flurry of cases, Hafr Al Batin (Batin) has been hosting cases in healthcare workers (HCWs) since July. Lately though, we've seen seeing more HCWs - with reports suggesting as many as 10 in the cluster, and the possibility - raised via numerous local media and other reports - of more in this cluster. As with most clusters, cases seem to include human-to-human transmission events.

Is this a hospital based outbreak, a change in the virus to something more transmissible  or some particular activity that is exposing people in this region to more animal host infections?

Those long-awaited MERS-CoV full genome sequences we heard about recently are still not here, but if they were, they likely won't include recent strains like the ones in Batin. We really need to get over his whole-genome fetish and get some subgenomic sequencing going to reduce turnaround time. 

There are already PCR primer sets published by Corman et al that could monitor some smaller genome (subgenomic) regions of MERS-CoV and this should be able to be done locally, perhaps in , gasp, a collaboration with local Universities  But this does not seem to be happening for some reason.

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