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Genetic drift of MERS-CoV suggests that camel may not be the sources of human infection
  • Yuan-Qing Pan,
  • Fan Guo,
  • Li Xing
Yuan-Qing Pan
Author Profile


Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is caused by MERS-CoV. To explore the conservation of non-coding 5’-UTR of MERS-CoV and its implication in epidermiology, 5’-UTRs from 252 human MERS-CoV and 207 camel and dromedary camel MERS-CoV were analyzed. We identified two conserved pyrimidine nucleotides that flank identical UAAU element in the loop of stem loop 2 of MERS-CoV 5’-UTR. These conserved pyrimidine nucleotides can be used as a novel genetic signature to re-genotype MERS-CoV into 3 types, i.e. U—-U, C—-U, and C—-C type viruses. Human MERS-CoV displays a genetic drift from U—-U, C—-U, to C—-C during period of 2012-2019. Camel virus only displayed a genetic drift from U—-U to C—-U, particularly in a delayed way when compared with human virus. The discrepancy in genetic drift suggests that camel may not necessarily be the natural reservior for human infection.