The "Mers" corona virus threatens the world



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The "Mers" corona virus threatens the world
04.12.2013

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned the public of the danger of the corona virus in the spring of this year. The pathogen from the “Coronaviridae” virus family is known to cause respiratory infections. The symptoms are similar to those of severe pneumonia. The spread in the Middle East is of particular concern to the experts, since a pandemic caused by the Sars pathogen already occurred in 2003, resulting in the deaths of over 800 people worldwide. As the first pandemic of the nine millennium, it was increasingly accompanied by media. The WHO sees the causes of the rapid spread at that time in an overly dense population. At that time, the animals' slaughterhouses were too close to the eating places of the Asian population. Poor hygiene then prepared the outbreak of the pathogen.

"No new disease is under control that is developing faster than our understanding of it," warned WHO Director General Margaret Chan in Geneva. Officially, it is the so-called Mers virus, which is also known as the "Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (Mers - Cov). It is similar in structure to the Sars pathogen. Its ability to mutate is of concern to researchers and health officials alike, as it complicates the work of making a possible vaccine. Corona savers have the ability to mutate quickly in order to improve their ability to transmit and to promote their rapid spread. The consequences of a mutation involve unpredictable dangers. "We do not know whether the virus stays as it is. That is the big problem," says Christian Drosten from the Institute of Virology at the University Hospital Bonn. It was he and his colleagues who identified the then raging Sars virus ten years ago. He and his colleagues have been researching Mers for a long time now.

The first diseases were already registered in 2012 "The virus does it if given the opportunity to do so," says Drosten. "The longer it circulates uncontrolled, unguarded and freely in humanity, it has time to experiment." The first signs of infection were already observed by the WHO in 2012. Illnesses and deaths sometimes occurred in just a few days. Patients have to deal with flu-like symptoms such as cough, fever, muscle and joint pain, which can lead to severe pneumonia. About a third of the patients experience gastrointestinal complaints. The reported cases show that the pathogen spreads quickly. While most cases were first registered on the Arabian Peninsula, shortly afterwards infections in France, Great Britain or Italy were also associated with those in the Middle East. Travelers in particular had taken care of the spread. In total, well over 150 Mers infections have been registered, from which around every second person has died. For the virologist Drosten but also for other experts, the current numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. Using extrapolations, the researchers come to at least 62 percent of diseases that have not yet been discovered.

Origin apparently lies in bats It is now known that the Mers pathogen can also be transmitted from person to person. Corona viruses can occur in both birds and mammals. Recent studies indicate that the virus appears to have its origin in bats. Researchers at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich have already succeeded in developing a live vaccine against Mers that is currently still being tested in mice. "Such a vaccine must first be clinically tested and then officially approved," says Drosten. "If the process has to be accelerated somewhere, it is at this point." Even if the scientists' projections are only statistical values, it is certainly advisable to observe the propagation routes and the willingness to mutate the Mers pathogen. (fr)

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