Antibodies against MERS Coronavirus in Dromedary Camels, Kenya, 1992–2013
Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERSCoV) was discovered in a patient from Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since caused ≥250 human infections and 93 deaths (1). The evolutionary origins of MERS-CoV and related viral species belonging to the genus Betacoronavirus clade C were attributed to insectivorous bats in Europe and Africa (2–4). Seroprevalence studies of livestock from diverse species showed that dromedary camels from Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, Spain, and Egypt harbored antibodies against MERS-CoV antigens (5–8). Direct evidence for MERS-CoV infection in camels has been found in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Close similarity of camel-associated and human-associated MERS-CoV sequences suggests that camels are sources of infection for humans and might constitute a zoonotic animal reservoir (5,9,10). Where and when the putative introduction of MERS-CoV into camel populations took place and how the virus is maintained in camel populations remains obscure Most livestock camels slaughtered in the Arabian Peninsula and in Egypt are imported from the Greater Horn of Africa, in particular Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and Kenya (11,12). We investigated MERS-CoV antibody levels and distribution patterns in farmed and nomadic camels from Kenya.