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Virologica Sinica, 33 (6) : 484, 2018
Research Article
Genetic Evidence of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-Cov) and Widespread Seroprevalence among Camels in Kenya
1 Institute for Biotechnology Research, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi 62000-00200, Kenya
2 CAS Key Laboratory for Special Pathogens and Biosafety, Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan 430071, China
3 College of Biology, Hunan University, Changsha 410006, China
4 Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Nairobi, Nairobi 30197-00100, Kenya
5 Veterinary Services Department, Kenya Wildlife Service, Nairobi 40241-00100, Kenya
6 Veterinary Research Institute, Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization, Nairobi 57811-00200, Kenya
7 Veterinary Services Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore 169857, Singapore
8 Directorate of Veterinary Services, State Department of Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Irrigation, Nairobi 34188-00100, Kenya
9 Kenya Camel Association, Nairobi 30095-00100, Kenya
10 Department of Zoology, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi 40658-00100, Kenya
 Correspondence: bagwanda@museums.or.ke;zlshi@wh.iov.cn
(1356.57KB)  (60.60KB)  
We describe the first genome isolation of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Kenya. This fatal zoonotic pathogen was first described in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2012. Epidemiological and molecular evidence revealed zoonotic transmission from camels to humans and between humans. Currently, MERS-CoV is classified by the WHO as having high pandemic potential requiring greater surveillance. Previous studies of MERS-CoV in Kenya mainly focused on site-specific and archived camel and human serum samples for antibodies. We conducted active nationwide cross-sectional surveillance of camels and humans in Kenya, targeting both nasal swabs and plasma samples from 1,163 camels and 486 humans collected from January 2016 to June 2018. A total of 792 camel plasma samples were positive by ELISA. Seroprevalence increased with age, and the highest prevalence was observed in adult camels (82.37%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 79.50–84.91). More female camels were significantly seropositive (74.28%, 95% CI 71.14–77.19) than male camels (P<0.001) (53.74%, 95% CI 48.48–58.90). Only 11 camel nasal swabs were positive for MERS-CoV by reverse transcription-quantitative PCR. Phylogenetic analysis of whole genome sequences showed that Kenyan MERSCoV clustered within sub-clade C2, which is associated with the African clade, but did not contain signature deletions of orf4b in African viruses. None of the human plasma screened contained neutralizing antibodies against MERS-CoV. This study confirms the geographically widespread occurrence of MERS-CoV in Kenyan camels. Further one-health surveillance approaches in camels, wildlife, and human populations are needed.
Received: 11 Oct 2018  Accepted: 27 Nov 2018  Published online: 20 Dec 2018
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