Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

First identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. Had the first outbreak outside of the Middle East this summer. Businessman transported the virus to South Korea. Since then, 186 people infected. 36 have died.


Virus is thought to have originated in camels. Found that predominantly younger animals host and shed the disease. Can be spread from close contact with the camels. Exact method of camel-to-human transmission is still unknown.

Once infected, the symptoms are:

Fever, cough, shortness of breath, and acute respiratory disease like pneumonia. Transmission between people is not easy. Death rate is considerably high at 36%.

·         Now:

  • Researchers claim they have developed experimental MERS vaccine
    • Showed promise in both mice and monkey models
  • Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' Vaccine Research Center
    • Created the vaccine by analyzing the structural information of a particular protein
    • Spike glycoprotein: protein found on the outside of the MERS virus

Uses to enter cells when infecting the body

  • Scientists able to develop a two-stage vaccine that primes the body for infection
    • New method of vaccine design could be used to develop one for human MERS\
  • Research published in Nature Communications
  • Able to demonstrate that when mice had been given the experimental vaccine, they produced “broadly neutralizing” antibodies when later infected with the MERS virus.
  • This means that the immune system was able to neutralize the biological effect that the virus has, rather than flagging the virus up to be destroyed by white blood cells
  • Tests with rhesus macaque monkeys:

Researchers found that after being vaccinated, they were protected from severe lung damage when later infected


South Korean President Hwang Kyo-ahn has declared the country MERS-free. Country has not had any new infections for 23 days. World Health Organization will not declare South Korea MERS-free until they have gone 28 days without infection, or twice the virus's incubation rate.