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MERS-coronavirus breakthrough

Last updated: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 9:06 AM

Saeed Al-Khotani

Saudi Gazette


RIYADH – In a breakthrough to help identify the mysterious Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-coronavirus (MERS-CoV) which has killed 31 people mostly in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Health announced on Tuesday the completion of the genetic sequence of four infections in Al-Ahsa.

This is a significant move that could lead to a breakthrough in revealing the genetic mystery and generate more information on the virus, which will eventually lead to finding a quick diagnostic methodology and a vaccine against it, said Dr. Khalid Marghalani, adviser to the minister and MOH spokesman.

The study was conducted by a selected team of Saudi and British researchers and scientists from the ministry and two British institutions: the University College in London (UCL) and  the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, south of Cambridge.

Marghalani said that the complete genome of the four Al-Ahsa infections has been recorded on the GenBank database, which is available for all in accordance with the established norms, through the bank’s website.

For update on the detail of these latest developments, the Ministry of Health asked local and international researchers and health professionals to refer to updates from No. kf186564 to kf186567 at the GenBank website.
The ministry hoped that these new findings might help these researchers and professionals in finding ways to develop a vaccine against the virus.

The World Health Organization on Monday urged health workers around the world to be on the alert for symptoms of the deadly MERS, which has the potential to circle the globe and cause a pandemic. The United Nations agency, which issued new, long-awaited guidance to countries on influenza pandemics, said the world was also in the same “alert phase” for two human strains of bird flu – H5N1, which emerged a decade ago, and H7N9, first detected in China in March.

“We are trying to find out as much as we can and we are concerned about these (three) viruses,” Andrew Harper, WHO special adviser for health security and environment, told a news briefing on its new scale for pandemic risk.

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