Limited Genetic Diversity Detected in Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Related Coronavirus Variants Circulating in Dromedary Camels in Jordan.Viruses. 2021 03 31; 13(4)V
Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a persistent zoonotic pathogen with frequent spillover from dromedary camels to humans in the Arabian Peninsula, resulting in limited outbreaks of MERS with a high case-fatality rate. Full genome sequence data from camel-derived MERS-CoV variants show diverse lineages circulating in domestic camels with frequent recombination. More than 90% of the available full MERS-CoV genome sequences derived from camels are from just two countries, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and United Arab Emirates (UAE). In this study, we employ a novel method to amplify and sequence the partial MERS-CoV genome with high sensitivity from nasal swabs of infected camels. We recovered more than 99% of the MERS-CoV genome from field-collected samples with greater than 500 TCID50 equivalent per nasal swab from camel herds sampled in Jordan in May 2016. Our subsequent analyses of 14 camel-derived MERS-CoV genomes show a striking lack of genetic diversity circulating in Jordan camels relative to MERS-CoV genome sequences derived from large camel markets in KSA and UAE. The low genetic diversity detected in Jordan camels during our study is consistent with a lack of endemic circulation in these camel herds and reflective of data from MERS outbreaks in humans dominated by nosocomial transmission following a single introduction as reported during the 2015 MERS outbreak in South Korea. Our data suggest transmission of MERS-CoV among two camel herds in Jordan in 2016 following a single introduction event.