Dromedary camels from Africa and Arabia are an established source for zoonotic Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection among humans. In Pakistan, we found specific neutralizing antibodies in samples from 39.5% of 565 dromedaries, documenting significant expansion of the enzootic range of MERS-CoV to Asia.
Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) cases continue to be reported, predominantly in Saudi Arabia and occasionally other countries. Although dromedaries are the main reservoir, other animal species might be susceptible to MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection and potentially serve as reservoirs. To determine whether other animals are potential reservoirs, we inoculated MERS-CoV into llamas, pigs, sheep, and horses and collected nasal and rectal swab samples at various times. The presence of MERS-CoV in the nose of pigs and llamas was confirmed by PCR, titration of infectious virus, immunohistochemistry, and in situ hybridization; seroconversion was detected in animals of both species. Conversely, in sheep and horses, virus-specific antibodies did not develop and no evidence of viral replication in the upper respiratory tract was found. These results prove the susceptibility of llamas and pigs to MERS-CoV infection. Thus, the possibility of MERS-CoV circulation in animals other than dromedaries, such as llamas and pigs, is not negligible.
Different species of camelids play an important role in the epidemiology of various emerging infectious diseases such as Middle East respiratory syndrome. For precise investigations of the immunopathogenesis in these host species, appropriate immunohistochemical markers are highly needed in order to phenotype distinct immune cells populations in camelids. So far, specific immunohistochemical markers for camelid immune cells are rarely commercially available, and cross-reactivity studies are restricted to the use of frozen dromedary tissues. To bridge this gap, 14 commercially available primary antibodies were tested for their suitability to demonstrate immune cell populations on formalin fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue sections of dromedaries, Bactrian camels, llamas, and alpacas in the present study. Out of these, 9 antibodies directed against CD3, CD20, CD79α, HLA-DR, Iba-1, myeloid/histiocyte antigen, CD204, CD208, and CD68 antigen exhibited distinct immunoreaction patterns to certain camelid immune cell subsets. The distribution of these antigens was comparatively evaluated in different anatomical compartments of thymus, spleen, mesenteric, and tracheobronchial lymph nodes. The presented results will provide a basis for further investigations in camelids, especially with respect to the role of the immune response in certain infectious diseases, which harbor a considerable risk to spill over to other species.