New Antibodies to Fight MERS


Health authorities in Saudi Arabia confirmed the number of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus has reached 704, as of Sunday, with around 250 deaths related to the dangerous disease. But in the beginning of the hajj season, when millions of people are expected to travel to the country, officials said new antibodies to fight MERS are in development.

According to the Saudi Ministry of Health, the newly developed antibodies will help reduce the mortality of the virus, as well as its spreading among people. Since the first detection of the virus nearly two years ago, international researchers have been trying to create a cure and a vaccine, without much success.

Scientists have been looking at various medications with potential to treat MERS, but more research is needed for definitive results. However, experts say that antibodies for the virus may be very effective for infection prevention, especially among healthcare workers who have had direct contact with ill people.

The antibodies are believed to prevent the virus from attaching to receptors and thus, stopping it from infecting the human body. They are basically proteins, explain experts, which are produced by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects such as the MERS virus. Dr. Abdullah Assiri, director of the General Directorate for Infection Prevention and Control in the Saudi Ministry of Health, says that the development of vaccine will take longer period of time, while the use of antibodies may turn out to be the immediate solution for stopping a possible outbreak. After the dramatic spike in MERS cases in April and May, the current situation in the country is much more positive with only around 15 new cases and 7 deaths reported in the past three weeks.

However, during the next three months, Saudi Arabia is expecting around 12 million pilgrims to Mecca and Medina. This raises concerns among health experts for a potential pandemic, so health authorities in the country have warned travelers to postpone their hajj, especially if there are chronically ill.


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