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‘No conclusive proof’ camels spread MERS: Expert

JEDDAH: There is no conclusive evidence that shows camels are responsible for the spread of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), according to research conducted by a Saudi expert at King Saud University in Riyadh.
There is also no need to vaccinate them or have mass culls of the animals because this has not been recommended by the World Health Organization, said Abdulqader bin Abdulrahman Al-Haidar, supervisor at the biological and medical research derivatives unit for camels at the university.
Al-Haidar called on doctors and veterinarians specializing in infectious and viral diseases to collaborate and find out how the virus is spread, according to a recent report in a local publication.
“All the studies published in scientific journals do not at this stage show that the blood samples taken from camels have the virus present. The reality is that more than 80 percent of the tested samples prove that camels’ blood carry protective antibodies against the virus,” he said.
However, he said another study shows the virus is present in the mucus of camels. In addition, a report produced by the Ministry of Agriculture, not published because it is yet to be verified, shows the virus present in 3.3 percent of samples. However, the report does not state the age or origin of the camels.
“It is a scientific fact that camels gain immunity a few months after birth. Camels are different from other living creatures. They, like lamas, are the only animals that have outstanding immune systems, with their blood containing many different antibodies,” he said.
He said some studies have found that 5 to 6 percent of shepherds and persons dealing with camels carry antibodies against MERS, and do not have the virus itself.
“In our previous studies we found out that Heavy Chain Antibodies are present in the blood of camels and are carried out with its milk. This research was published in the Journal of Proteomics. This in itself proves that immunity is transferred from camels to humans,” he said.

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