With symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue, coughing, and shortness of breath, an infection with the Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) begins like many other respiratory tract infections. But, for more than a third of people who catch the virus the outcome is fatal. While MERS-CoV – shown coloured green, attacking cells – is thankfully very rare, with only 2,206 laboratory-confirmed cases worldwide, it is extremely deadly and as yet no specific treatments or cures exist. That may be set to change, however. Two monoclonal antibodies that have been shown to neutralise MERS-CoV in mice are now ready to be tested for the first time in human volunteers. If the trial, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. is successful, the antibodies may provide the first targeted ammunition to prevent MERS-associated deaths as well as to control future outbreaks of the virus.
Written by Ruth Williams
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