Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a killer, and our understanding of the virus is frustratingly limited. We know that camels can carry it, and that close contact with an infected dromedary can be deadly. But researchers don’t believe that camels are the only non-human carriers—exposure to the beasts can’t be behind all of the hundreds of cases that are cropping up around the world (including, most recently, in Iran). As the BBC reports, scientists are now looking at domestic animals as possible carriers of the virus:
“We do have these sporadic cases where there is no known exposure to known cases and we question where do they catch the virus,” [MERS researcher Dr. Thomas Briese] told BBC News…”In some cases there was animal contact or camel contact but in others not, so there is no clear definitive picture yet.” […]These unknowns, says Dr Briese, are pushing researchers to extend the search for the Mers coronavirus to domestic animals.“The others that we are looking into or are trying to look into are cats, dogs – where there is more intimate contact – and any other wild species we can get serum from that we are not currently getting.”
Scientists believe MERS can also be transmitted through close human contact, but thankfully, it hasn’t proved particularly contagious. However, a mutation could change all that. If it does, we could be seeing an outbreak on a global scale—brought to you by man’s best friend.