1. Epidemiology and Global Health
  2. Microbiology and Infectious Disease
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MERS-CoV spillover at the camel-human interface

  1. Gytis Dudas  Is a corresponding author
  2. Luiz Max Carvalho
  3. Andrew Rambaut
  4. Trevor Bedford
  1. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, United States
  2. University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Research Article
  • Cited 1
  • Views 1,987
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Cite as: eLife 2018;7:e31257 doi: 10.7554/eLife.31257

Abstract

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a zoonotic virus from camels causing significant mortality and morbidity in humans in the Arabian Peninsula. The epidemiology of the virus remains poorly understood, and while case-based and seroepidemiological studies have been employed extensively throughout the epidemic, viral sequence data have not been utilised to their full potential. Here we use existing MERS-CoV sequence data to explore its phylodynamics in two of its known major hosts, humans and camels. We employ structured coalescent models to show that long-term MERS-CoV evolution occurs exclusively in camels, whereas humans act as a transient, and ultimately terminal host. By analysing the distribution of human outbreak cluster sizes and zoonotic introduction times we show that human outbreaks in the Arabian peninsula are driven by seasonally varying zoonotic transfer of viruses from camels. Without heretofore unseen evolution of host tropism, MERS-CoV is unlikely to become endemic in humans.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Gytis Dudas

    Vaccines and Infectious Disease Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, United States
    For correspondence
    gdudas@fredhutch.org
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon 0000-0002-0227-4158
  2. Luiz Max Carvalho

    Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Andrew Rambaut

    Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Trevor Bedford

    Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon 0000-0002-4039-5794

Funding

National Institutes of Health (R35 GM119774-01)

  • Trevor Bedford

Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew Biomedical Scholar)

  • Trevor Bedford

European Commission (278433-PREDEMICS)

  • Andrew Rambaut

Wellcome (206298/Z/17/Z)

  • Andrew Rambaut

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Mahan Postdoctoral Fellowship)

  • Gytis Dudas

European Commission (725422-RESERVOIRDOCS)

  • Andrew Rambaut

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Neil M Ferguson, Reviewing Editor, Imperial College London, United Kingdom

Publication history

  1. Received: August 14, 2017
  2. Accepted: December 19, 2017
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: January 16, 2018 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: January 22, 2018 (version 2)
  5. Version of Record updated: April 19, 2018 (version 3)

Copyright

© 2018, Dudas et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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Further reading

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    2. Microbiology and Infectious Disease
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