As he tries to unravel the untold story of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) discovery, MIT virologist Islam Hussein looks at the work of another prominent virologist, Ali Mohamed Zaki, whom he credits for the discovery of MERS-CoV.
Zaki had diagnosed “patient zero” of the deadly virus at a Saudi Arabia virology diagnostic laboratory established in 1993. Besides coronavirus, Zaki also diagnosed Dengue fever for the first time in Saudi Arabia in 1994. And in 1997, he isolated a new tick-born flavivirus, known as Alkhurma, which causes severe hemorrhagic fever.
Here he talks to Hussein about his experience with MERS-CoV, how he first identified the virus and the politics of science that saw him leave his work in Saudi and return to Egypt.
It's not a pretty story. The Saudis treated Dr. Zaki very badly, and may well have made the subsequent MERS outbreak much worse than it would have been with grownups in charge.