Affiliations (Top 2)
Publications 3

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) emerged in 2012 and is listed in the World Health Organization’s blueprint of priority diseases that need immediate research. Camels are reservoirs of this virus, and the virus spills over into humans through direct contact with camels. Human-to-human transmission and travel-associated cases have been identified as well. Limited studies have characterized the molecular pathogenesis of MERS-CoV. Most studies have used ectopic expression of viral proteins to characterize MERS-CoV and its ability to modulate antiviral responses in human cells. Studies with live virus are limited, largely due to the requirement of high containment laboratories. In this review, we have summarized current studies on MERS-CoV molecular pathogenesis and have mentioned some recent strategies that are being developed to control MERS-CoV infection. Multiple antiviral molecules with the potential to inhibit MERS-CoV infection by disrupting virus-receptor interactions are being developed and tested. Although human vaccine candidates are still being developed, a candidate camel vaccine is being tested for efficacy. Combination of supportive treatment with interferon and antivirals is also being explored. New antiviral molecules that inhibit MERS-CoV and host cell receptor interaction may become available in the future. Additional studies are required to identify and characterize the pathogenesis of MERS-CoV EMC/2012 and other circulating strains. An effective MERS-CoV vaccine, for humans and/or camels, along with an efficient combination antiviral therapy may help us prevent future MERS cases.

In recent years viruses similar to those that appear to cause no overt disease in bats have spilled-over to humans and other species causing serious disease. Since pathology in such diseases is often attributed to an over-active inflammatory response, we tested the hypothesis that bat cells respond to stimulation of their receptors for viral ligands with a strong antiviral response, but unlike in human cells, the inflammatory response is not overtly activated. We compared the response of human and bat cells to poly(I:C), a viral double-stranded RNA surrogate. We measured transcripts for several inflammatory, interferon and interferon stimulated genes using quantitative real-time PCR and observed that human and bat cells both, when stimulated with poly(I:C), contained higher levels of transcripts for interferon beta than unstimulated cells. In contrast, only human cells expressed robust amount of RNA for TNFα, a cell signaling protein involved in systemic inflammation. We examined the bat TNFα promoter and found a potential repressor (c-Rel) binding motif. We demonstrated that c-Rel binds to the putative c-Rel motif in the promoter and knocking down c-Rel transcripts significantly increased basal levels of TNFα transcripts. Our results suggest bats may have a unique mechanism to suppress inflammatory pathology.

Affiliations 2
Journals 3
Journal of Tropical Diseases & Public Health