More than 60 percent of the world population of one-humped dromedary camels (Camelus dromedarius) lives in the Greater Horn of Africa. Their role as one of the most important livestock species for nutrition in arid and semi-arid areas of Eastern Africa is likely to increase since the predicted climate change is in favour of this drought resilient species.
Camel milk, for domestic consumption or sale, is often the most important product for female and male pastoralists alike. In 2012, a novel coronavirus called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) emerged on the Arabian Peninsula. Human cases have been reported from 25 countries with the most recent outbreak in the Republic of Korea (which itself originated in the Middle East). MERS-CoV has caused at least 1,200 laboratory confirmed cases of severe respiratory infection, including more than 400 deaths.
Several studies have demonstrated that dromedary camels can act as a source of human MERS-CoV infection. However, although the animal reservoir has been identified, the route of infection and types of exposures remains largely unknown.
MERS-CoV is an important zoonotic pathogen that might pose a risk to pastoral communities and other consumers of raw camel products such as milk. Furthermore, other potential sources of infection e.g. faeces and nasal discharge need to be characterised. So far no human cases of MERS-CoV infection have been reported in Africa. However, infections with MERS-CoV may go undetected in many African countries since routine surveillance systems are simply not in place due to the lack of diagnostic capacity and diagnostic networks of laboratories and courier services in most countries.
The objective of this report is to summarise the current knowledge on camel systems and MERS-CoV focusing on Africa and to highlight research gaps that need to be addressed in order to make rational decisions on disease mitigation in the African context.
This report has been produced by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) for Evidence on Demand with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) contracted through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services (CEIL PEAKS) programme, jointly managed by DAI (which incorporates HTSPE Limited) and IMC Worldwide Limited.
Jores, J. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus in camels: an overview for Sub-Saharan and North Africa. Evidence on Demand, UK (2015) iv + 21 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_cr.july2015.joresj]