These ruminants are suspected of spreading MERS-CoV, a cousin of Covid-19, which appeared in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and is likely to cause the next pandemic.
He also doesn’t like putting medicine swabs on his nose. In the Kapiti Nature Reserve in southern Kenya, this dromedary is undergoing a PCR test to detect the epidermal mutant Covid-19 (MERS), which may one day cause the next pandemic. The beast was 2 meters tall and weighed 300 kilograms. It roared and struggled between the necks, muzzles and tails of three camel drivers, and the veterinarian wearing a blue coat quickly entered the terrible sample. “It is very difficult to collect samples from animals because you never know what will happen. If you do it wrong, it will get worse because it will hit you and bite you.Nelson Kipchirchir, Kapiti’s veterinarian, explained.
On this misty morning, 10 of the 35 camels in Kapiti were sampled. During the nasal cavity and blood sampling, one of the camel drivers would not be able to escape the violent kicks. On this huge bush plain covering 13,000 hectares of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), its world headquarters is located in Nairobi, where wild animals and cattle for research coexist. ILRI began studying dromedary camels from Kenya in 2013, and a year later, a disturbing virus emerged in Saudi Arabia: MERS-CoV, used for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus.
Bats, pangolins, poultry…With the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is discovering the extent of zoonotic diseases. These viruses are spread by animals. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), they account for the most infectious diseases in humans. 60%. According to the World Health Organization again, as far as MERS-CoV is concerned, it is through close contact with the ruminant that the virus may spread to humans, causing the epidemic to cause hundreds of people worldwide from 2012 to 2015. Death, mainly in Saudi Arabia. The virus causes Covid-19-like symptoms in humans (fever, cough, difficulty breathing-dromedaries suffer from mild colds), but it is more lethal, killing one-third of patients.
In Kenya, the dromedary is gaining more and more success, consumers like its milk and meat, and nomadic shepherds in arid regions praise its ability to adapt to global warming. “Dromedary camel is very important”, Isaac Mohamed, a camel driver supporting Kapiti. “First, he can’t die in a drought. Second, it can last thirty days without drinking.”, Gave a detailed introduction to this slender man from the north, located on the border of Ethiopia and Somalia, where there are many camelids. Although it has a population of 3 million and is one of the largest animals in the world, this tenacious animal is still little known in Kenya.
In the ILRI laboratory in Nairobi, biologist Alice Kiyong’a regularly collects samples from camels in different parts of Kenya. Equipped with pipettes, reagents and machines, it will analyze each one to detect the presence of MERS that was originally transmitted by bats. In a study she led in 2014, she found that antibodies against MERS were present in 46% of dromedaries, but only 5% of humans tested (ie, 6 out of 111 camel drivers and slaughterhouse workers were positive) ). “The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome we currently have in Kenya is not easily transmitted to humans”She concluded that compared with Saudi Arabia’s Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, this type of contagion is more contagious.