MERS Transmission To Family Contacts Low Interview with:
Ziad A. Memish, M.D.
Alfaisal University
Riyadh Saudi Arabia

Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Memish:  This is an important study as we looked at the secondary transmission of MERS-CoV among household/family contacts.  Of the total study population of 280 contacts from 26 clusters collected over 6 months period last year, only 12 family contacts were positive for MERS-CoV.

Knowing that 7 (2.5%) were positive by PCR, only additional 5 probable secondary transmission were identified by serology which is a very small fraction missed by PCR.

Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Memish:   We previously had shown that the transmission of MERS-CoV within family members was low by PCR testing. Of a total of 462 family contact we looked at in a previous study published in CMI in 2013, 3.6% were positive for MERS-CoV, but the scientific community felt that a lot more transmission was taking place that we were not picking up by PCR. So in this meticulously conducted study we attempted to address this concern by screening all household contacts whether symptomatic or not by both serology and PCR and all contacts were followed closely for a inimum of 14 days after exposure. .  The results of the current study combining viral PCR and serology showed 4.2% positivity rate. A finding that’s very close to our previous results.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Memish:  The study shows that the current knowledge about MERS -CoV transmission is supporting a very low transmission rate among household/family contacts.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Memish:  It is important to look at sero-epidemiology and the prevalence of the disease among a large population in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  Such study would further enhance our understanding about MERS and its prevalence and transmission in the community.


Transmission of MERS-Coronavirus in Household Contacts
Christian Drosten, M.D., Benjamin Meyer, M.Sc., Marcel A. Müller, Ph.D., Victor M. Corman, M.D., Malak Al-Masri, R.N., Raheela Hossain, M.D., Hosam Madani, M.Sc., Andrea Sieberg, B.Sc., Berend Jan Bosch, Ph.D., Erik Lattwein, Ph.D., Raafat F. Alhakeem, M.D., Abdullah M. Assiri, M.D., Waleed Hajomar, M.Sc., Ali M. Albarrak, M.D., Jaffar A. Al-Tawfiq, M.D., Alimuddin I. Zumla, M.D., and Ziad A. Memish, M.D.

N Engl J Med 2014; 371:828-835
August 28, 2014