Concept: Middle East
The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus has caused recurrent outbreaks in the Arabian Peninsula since 2012. Although MERS has low overall human-to-human transmission potential, there is occasional amplification in the healthcare setting, a pattern reminiscent of the dynamics of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreaks in 2003. Here we provide a head-to-head comparison of exposure patterns and transmission dynamics of large hospital clusters of MERS and SARS, including the most recent South Korean outbreak of MERS in 2015.
The Turin Shroud is traditionally considered to be the burial cloth in which the body of Jesus Christ was wrapped after his death approximately 2000 years ago. Here, we report the main findings from the analysis of genomic DNA extracted from dust particles vacuumed from parts of the body image and the lateral edge used for radiocarbon dating. Several plant taxa native to the Mediterranean area were identified as well as species with a primary center of origin in Asia, the Middle East or the Americas but introduced in a historical interval later than the Medieval period. Regarding human mitogenome lineages, our analyses detected sequences from multiple subjects of different ethnic origins, which clustered into a number of Western Eurasian haplogroups, including some known to be typical of Western Europe, the Near East, the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian sub-continent. Such diversity does not exclude a Medieval origin in Europe but it would be also compatible with the historic path followed by the Turin Shroud during its presumed journey from the Near East. Furthermore, the results raise the possibility of an Indian manufacture of the linen cloth.
Scrub typhus is a life-threatening zoonosis caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi organisms that are transmitted by the larvae of trombiculid mites. Endemic scrub typhus was originally thought to be confined to the so called “tsutsugamushi triangle” within the Asia-Pacific region. In 2006, however, two individual cases were detected in the Middle East and South America, which suggested that the pathogen was present farther afield. Here, we report three autochthonous cases of scrub typhus caused by O. tsutsugamushi acquired on Chiloé Island in southern Chile, which suggests the existence of an endemic focus in South America. (Funded by the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica and the Wellcome Trust.).
To determine how long antibodies against Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus persist, we measured long-term antibody responses among persons serologically positive or indeterminate after a 2012 outbreak in Jordan. Antibodies, including neutralizing antibodies, were detectable in 6 (86%) of 7 persons for at least 34 months after the outbreak.
A novel coronavirus (MERS-CoV) causing severe, life-threatening respiratory disease has emerged in the Middle East at a time when two international mass gatherings in Saudi Arabia are imminent. While MERS-CoV has already spread to and within other countries, these mass gatherings could further amplify and/or accelerate its international dissemination, especially since the origins and geographic source of the virus remain poorly understood.
There is increasing evidence that gardening provides substantial human health benefits. However, no formal statistical assessment has been conducted to test this assertion. Here, we present the results of a meta-analysis of research examining the effects of gardening, including horticultural therapy, on health. We performed a literature search to collect studies that compared health outcomes in control (before participating in gardening or non-gardeners) and treatment groups (after participating in gardening or gardeners) in January 2016. The mean difference in health outcomes between the two groups was calculated for each study, and then the weighted effect size determined both across all and sets of subgroup studies. Twenty-two case studies (published after 2001) were included in the meta-analysis, which comprised 76 comparisons between control and treatment groups. Most studies came from the United States, followed by Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Studies reported a wide range of health outcomes, such as reductions in depression, anxiety, and body mass index, as well as increases in life satisfaction, quality of life, and sense of community. Meta-analytic estimates showed a significant positive effect of gardening on the health outcomes both for all and sets of subgroup studies, whilst effect sizes differed among eight subgroups. Although Egger’s test indicated the presence of publication bias, significant positive effects of gardening remained after adjusting for this using trim and fill analysis. This study has provided robust evidence for the positive effects of gardening on health. A regular dose of gardening can improve public health.
We identified the near-full-genome sequence (29,908 nt, >99%) of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) from a nasal swab specimen from a dromedary camel in Egypt. We found that viruses genetically very similar to human MERS-CoV are infecting dromedaries beyond the Arabian Peninsula, where human MERS-CoV infections have not yet been detected.
A human coronavirus, called the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), was first identified in September 2012 in samples obtained from a Saudi Arabian businessman who died from acute respiratory failure. Since then, 49 cases of infections caused by MERS-CoV (previously called a novel coronavirus) with 26 deaths have been reported to date. In this report, we describe a family case cluster of MERS-CoV infection, including the clinical presentation, treatment outcomes, and household relationships of three young men who became ill with MERS-CoV infection after the hospitalization of an elderly male relative, who died of the disease. Twenty-four other family members living in the same household and 124 attending staff members at the hospitals did not become ill. MERS-CoV infection may cause a spectrum of clinical illness. Although an animal reservoir is suspected, none has been discovered. Meanwhile, global concern rests on the ability of MERS-CoV to cause major illness in close contacts of patients.
The red palm weevil (RPW) is a major pest of palms. It is native to southeast Asia and Melanesia, but in recent decades has vastly expanded its range as the result of multiple accidental anthropogenic introductions into the Middle East, Mediterranean Basin, Caribbean, and U.S.A. Currently regarded as a single species, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus (Olivier), RPW displays remarkable color variation across its range, and consequently has a taxonomic history littered with new species descriptions and synonymization. We compared DNA sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) gene from RPW populations throughout the native and invaded ranges, to investigate the specific status and invasion history of this serious economic pest, and to identify possible common routes of entry. Analyses of COI haplotype data provide conclusive support, corroborated by sequences of additional nuclear gene regions, for the existence of at least two predominantly allopatric species. The true R. ferrugineus is native only to the northern and western parts of continental southeast Asia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, and is responsible for almost all invasive populations worldwide. In contrast, the second species, which is currently synonymized under R. ferrugineus and should be resurrected under the name R. vulneratus (Panzer), has a more southern distribution across Indonesia, and is responsible for only one invasive population; that in California, U.S.A. The distribution of COI haplotypes is used to discuss the possible existence of further cryptic species, sources and routes of entry of different invasive populations, and the implications of our findings for current control methods.
Nine burials excavated from the Magdalen Hill Archaeological Research Project (MHARP) in Winchester, UK, showing skeletal signs of lepromatous leprosy (LL) have been studied using a multidisciplinary approach including osteological, geochemical and biomolecular techniques. DNA from Mycobacterium leprae was amplified from all nine skeletons but not from control skeletons devoid of indicative pathology. In several specimens we corroborated the identification of M. leprae with detection of mycolic acids specific to the cell wall of M. leprae and persistent in the skeletal samples. In five cases, the preservation of the material allowed detailed genotyping using single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and multiple locus variable number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA). Three of the five cases proved to be infected with SNP type 3I-1, ancestral to contemporary M. leprae isolates found in southern states of America and likely carried by European migrants. From the remaining two burials we identified, for the first time in the British Isles, the occurrence of SNP type 2F. Stable isotope analysis conducted on tooth enamel taken from two of the type 3I-1 and one of the type 2F remains revealed that all three individuals had probably spent their formative years in the Winchester area. Previously, type 2F has been implicated as the precursor strain that migrated from the Middle East to India and South-East Asia, subsequently evolving to type 1 strains. Thus we show that type 2F had also spread westwards to Britain by the early medieval period.