Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Infection (MERS-CoV Infection)

  • Medical Author:

    Sandra Gonzalez Gompf, MD, FACP is a U.S. board-certified Infectious Disease subspecialist. Dr. Gompf received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami, and a Medical Degree from the University of South Florida. Dr. Gompf completed residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of South Florida followed by subspecialty fellowship training there in Infectious Diseases under the directorship of Dr. John T. Sinnott, IV.

  • Medical Author: Lily N. Jones, DO
  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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How is MERS-CoV diagnosed?

MERS-CoV is detected using a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. On June 5, 2013, the FDA issued an emergency-use authorization (EUA) for the CDC Novel Coronavirus 2012 Real-Time RT-PCR Assay. This test detects Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), formerly known as novel coronavirus 2012 or NCV-2012, in patients with signs and symptoms of MERS and appropriate risk factors. This assay is distributed by the CDC to qualified laboratories. The PCR is performed on a sample of respiratory secretions or blood.

When the patient's history makes the MERS diagnosis likely, these tests are done with the help of state and local public-health authorities, the CDC, and infectious disease subspecialists. The CDC confirms all positive tests.

Other tests may be abnormal, but they are not specific for SARS or MERS. The chest X-ray shows pneumonia, which may look patchy at first. Typically, infiltrates may look like "ground glass" on CT scans but may progress to a "white out" appearance. Usually, lymphocyte and platelet counts are decreased while creatinine phosphokinase (CPK) and serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels may be increased.

MERS should be suspected in people with the appropriate symptoms who work with MERS-CoV in a laboratory, who are healthcare workers, or potential contacts of a MERS-infected person. It is extremely unlikely that a patient in the U.S. will have MERS without having traveled to the Middle East or caring for an infected returning traveler. In 2014, MERS-CoV infections were diagnosed in two people who had no ties to each other. Both individuals were traveling healthcare workers living and working in Saudi Arabia. None of the staff caring for these individuals nor household contacts became infected with MERS-CoV.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/13/2015

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