Genomic Sequencing and Analysis of Eight Camel-Derived Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) Isolates in Saudi Arabia.Viruses. 2020 06 03; 12(6)V
Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) causes severe respiratory illness in humans; the second-largest and most deadly outbreak to date occurred in Saudi Arabia. The dromedary camel is considered a possible host of the virus and also to act as a reservoir, transmitting the virus to humans. Here, we studied evolutionary relationships for 31 complete genomes of betacoronaviruses, including eight newly sequenced MERS-CoV genomes isolated from dromedary camels in Saudi Arabia. Through bioinformatics tools, we also used available sequences and 3D structure of MERS-CoV spike glycoprotein to predict MERS-CoV epitopes and assess antibody binding affinity. Phylogenetic analysis showed the eight new sequences have close relationships with existing strains detected in camels and humans in Arabian Gulf countries. The 2019-nCov strain appears to have higher homology to both bat coronavirus and SARS-CoV than to MERS-CoV strains. The spike protein tree exhibited clustering of MERS-CoV sequences similar to the complete genome tree, except for one sequence from Qatar (KF961222). B cell epitope analysis determined that the MERS-CoV spike protein has 24 total discontinuous regions from which just six epitopes were selected with score values of >80%. Our results suggest that the virus circulates by way of camels crossing the borders of Arabian Gulf countries. This study contributes to finding more effective vaccines in order to provide long-term protection against MERS-CoV and identifying neutralizing antibodies.