Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a severe respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Most MERS patients develop severe respiratory illness and fever, cough and shortness of breath. MERS resulted in death in approximately 3-4 out of 10 patients. MERS-CoV is spread from infected individuals to others through close contact such as caring for or living in the same household. MERS-CoV is a zoonotic virus as most infections are passed from animals to humans.
The first cases of MERS have retrospectively been determined to have occurred in Jordan in April 2012, but health officials first reported the disease in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. MERS is linked through travel to, or residence in countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula. Outside of this area the largest known outbreak of MERS occurred in the Republic of Korea in 2015 and was associated with a traveler returning from the Arabian Peninsula.
There are several coronaviruses (members in Coronaviridae family of viruses) that constantly circulate in the human population and cause mild respiratory disease.Coronaviruses are enveloped RNA viruses. MERS caused by MERS-CoV coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) caused by the SARS-CoV coronavirus and COVID-19 caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus are all severe respiratory illnesses. Research suggests that SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV2 originated in bats. MERS-CoV spread from the intermediate host and infected dromedary camels to people.
MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 share 50% nucleotide sequence identity. Research into potential therapeutics and vaccines for COVID-19 builds on data, vaccine and therapeutic strategies available from SARS and MERS research. MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 all belong to the betacoronavirus genus.