The rise of a new virus, spreading like wildfire across the globe, is the stuff of nightmares for epidemiologists, and a growing source of concern for the general public. All eyes are currently trained on the Middle East, where a previously unknown virus has emerged, after possibly originating in camels or bats. Similarly to the virus behind the SARS outbreak in 2002, MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, pictured) causes severe respiratory infections. Since it was first reported in 2012, there have been 182 confirmed cases, with a mortality rate as high as 43%. As yet, no vaccine or antiviral treatments exist, but new antibody technologies may provide a solution. Two teams of researchers have identified human antibodies that can bind to the virus particles and neutralise them; these could be used to develop antibody-based therapy for infected patients, hinting at a new means of fighting emerging diseases.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
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