Qatari-Dutch team identifies MERS virus

March 18, 2014 - 4:07:13 am

DOHA:  A joint Qatari-Dutch research team has succeeded in isolating and culturing corona virus (MERS-CoV) in the laboratory.

This major scientific achievement can increase the knowledge for prevention and control of MERS virus and  help in development of diagnostic tools and production of vaccines and treatment for the virus, the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) said yesterday.

The SCH and the Ministry of Environment worked with Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands with support of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in this major discovery.

The SCH said that Qatar continues its efforts to determine the source and root of the virus transmission, resulting in a series of studies including the latest one. Full details of the study will be published in a scientific journal. 

Based on recommendations of the WHO, a national sero survey will be conducted by the end of this month, to determine risk factors for MERS virus and identify the source of the virus. The survey will include screening of animals and workers. 

The collaboration between Qatar, Erasmus Medical Centre, and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment of the Ministry of Health in the Netherlands focuses on research cooperation and exchange of experiences and expertise as well as training of laboratory technicians for the diagnosis of the virus. 

This resulted in matching laboratory results between Veterinary biotechnology laboratories under the Ministry of Environment with the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands in virus detection by using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques. This could make the laboratories in Qatar the first in the Middle East for diagnosis of MERS virus in animals.

The SCH said there have been no new human cases of  MERS in Qatar  since October last year, although intensive epidemiological surveillance of this disease is undergoing in collaboration between health centres and hospitals in the state and the Department of Animal Health Resources.

People at high risk such as those with chronic diseases should avoid close contact with animals when visiting farms or barn areas where the virus is known to be potentially circulating, said the SCH.

Others visiting a farm or a barn have been advised to follow general hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals, avoiding contact with sick animals, and following food hygiene practices.

The SCH has called on citizens and residents to communicate with healthcare providers if they developed acute respiratory symptoms, especially if accompanied by fever and there was a close contact with animals.

• Hotlines for communicable diseases control in Supreme Council of Health Arabic:   66740948; English:  66740951

• Hotline for Animal health resources:  33611924 

• Hotline for Ministry of Environment:  998 (general).

The Peninsula

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