A new scientific paper confirms that camels on a farm in Qatar were sick with MERS earlier this fall.
But the report does not make clear whether camels infected people on the farm in question, whether people infected camels or whether an unidentified third species infected both.
In fact, the senior author of the study says the evidence as it exists cannot determine which way the virus spread.
And virologist Marion Koopmans, of the Dutch National Institute of Public Health, says it is unlikely that the mystery will be cleared up in this case.
But she and others say the work is important confirmation that camels can be infected with the coronavirus that causes MERS.
Previous studies have shown camels from several Middle Eastern and North African countries have antibodies to MERS or a MERS-like virus, but Koopmans says this work makes it clear dromedaries and people are being infected with the same virus.
“It is confirmation that camels can be infected. But it’s certainly not providing all the answers,” admits Koopmans, who also has an appointment at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.
Genetic sequences of the viral RNA recovered in the testing showed the camel viruses were very close to the human viruses, with some small differences.
The work was a collaboration between scientists in the Netherlands and public health officials in Qatar, who made a preliminary announcement of the findings in late November.
Qatar launched an in-depth investigation — which is still ongoing — after two men who lived on a farm contracted MERS in October.