A camel has tested positive for MERS, recording the first case of animal infected with the coronavirus that has killed 64 people worldwide, says the Saudi government.
A camel owned by a person diagnosed with the disease had “tested positive in preliminary laboratory checks,” the health ministry said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.
The ministry said it was working with the ministry of agriculture and laboratories to “isolate the virus and compare its genetic structure with that of the patient’s”.
If the virus carried by the camel and that of the patient “prove to be identical, this would be a first scientific discovery worldwide, and a door to identify the source of the virus,” it added.
In August, researchers pointed to Arabian camels as possible hosts of the SARS-like virus, which has hit hardest in the desert kingdom, where 53 people have died from the disease.
Like SARS, MERS appears to cause a lung infection, with patients suffering from a temperature, cough and breathing difficulty.
But it differs in that it also causes rapid kidney failure and the extremely high death rate has caused serious concern.