The King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) will conduct a research on the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.
Forty-four people have already died from the virus out of a total of 88 cases detected in the Kingdom.
“We have called for research papers from renowned scholars from the Kingdom’s universities on coronavirus and several other topics,” said Dr. Mohammed Bin Ahmed Kiyani, general supervisor of the General Administration for Research Grants, at KACST yesterday.
Medical specialists are struggling to understand MERS, for which there is still no vaccine and which has an extremely high fatality rate of more than 51 percent. It is considered a cousin of the SARS virus, which erupted in Asia in 2003. Around 8,273 people were infected, of whom 9 percent succumbed to the infection.
The Ministry of Health in the Kingdom recently traced MERS to bats. Scientists from the Kingdom and the US have found DNA matching the MERS virus in a sample taken from a bat in Saudi Arabia.
The study was initially conducted by a team of researchers from the Kingdom and Columbia University, who detected MERS in a bat near the home of a man who died from the disease. The team found a small fragment of the virus’ genes in the animal that matched those seen in the patient. The Ministry of Health conducted the study on 76 bats from October to April. The study was carried out in the areas where the virus was detected.