Another Saudi dies of MERS coronavirus

Deadly virus was last week traced to samples of bat faeces in Gulf kingdom

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health said that another one of its citizens had died after becoming infected with the MERS coronavirus.

The unidentified 51-year old, from the southern Asia region of the Gulf country, was said to be suffering from cancer and other chronic illnesses.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, has been reported in people in the Gulf, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says 46 people have died out of a total 94 confirmed cases, the majority in Saudi Arabia. One of the first reported cases was of a Qatari who died in London.

In a study published last week, a team of international doctors said MERS has been sourced to the Taphozous perforatus species of bat.

However, the report also raised a number of questions about how the coronavirus had spread. A perfect match for MERS was only found in faeces of one out of 100 bats that were tested, and –as bats rarely bite humans – it is unclear about how it was transmitted.

One theory raised by Dr Jonathan Epstein, who took part in the research, is that the bats may have sought shelter within buildings, with occupants then becoming infected by breathing in their dried faeces. Another possibility is that the bats first transmitted the coronavirus to another animal, which in turn infected humans.

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