MERS Virus Kills 47, Docs Scramble To Find A Treatment

The MERS virus, also known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, has killed dozens in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and medical experts are experimenting with drug cocktails to fight the deadly illness.

A new MERS virus study was published in the journal Nature Medicine, based on research carried out on rhesus monkeys, say researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

In advanced MERS virus cases, the respiratory illness has a worrisome 50 percent mortality rate — making treatment a far more necessary option given the lack of targeted treatments known thus far to combat the disease.

In the study, rhesus monkeys were given a MERS virus drug cocktail (interferon-alpha 2b and ribavirin), which appears to have inhibited the spread of the bug among the macaques. Given a lack of other viable treatments at this stage, researchers surmise the cocktail “should be considered as an early intervention therapy” in battling the virus.

Fox describes the impact the MERS virus has had since it was first observed just a few years back in the East:

“A cousin to the SARS virus that erupted in China a decade ago, causing a global health scare, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) causes flu-like symptoms, with fever and respiratory difficulties, but can also lead to organ failure. According to a toll placed on the World Health Organization (WHO) website on August 30, the virus has killed 50 out of 108 known cases of infection.”

As new MERS virus treatment options are recommended, public health officials say the illness claimed three more victims last week. It is not yet clear whether the cocktail used will have an impact on more advanced stages of MERS virus infection in humans.