In Kenya, camels are a very popular animal to keep as livestock. There’s value in their meat and milk products and as a result, there are now over three million camels in the country. But there is a danger that the people who come into contact with camels, and their products, face getting the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). MERS is a disease in people caused by a coronavirus (MERS-CoV) which was first identified in Saudia Arabia in 2012.
‘Prof Eric Fèvre, a researcher of veterinary infectious diseases at the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi told the Business Daily the close interaction between people and animals worsened the situation.
Researchers at the Nairobi, Kenya-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and at the University of Bonn Medical Center in Germany have found evidence of MERS-CoV antibodies in archived blood samples from two of 1,122 Kenyan livestock handlers, collected between 2013 and 2014.
Joerg Jores, a molecular biologist at the Nairobi animal health laboratories of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) who is working to develop diagnostic assays and vaccines against livestock diseases caused by Mycoplasma mycoides is also investigating the epidemiology of MERS-CoV in camel populations in Kenya and participated in the recent FAO-hosted discussions.
African camels could hold important clues to controlling the potential spread of a respiratory disease transmitted by the animals. For many years African camels have lived with the disease and the risk of it spreading to humans is still low. But more research is necessary to understand the disease better. This is even more important given the confirmation that the chains of transmission of the human Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection originated from contact with camels.