MERS-CoV Returns to England

Inovio Pharmaceuticals MERS vaccine candidate INO-4700 (GLS-5300) demonstrated antibody responses in roughly 95% of subjects
international airport

A patient at the Royal Liverpool Hospital has been confirmed with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (Mers-CoV) infection and is receiving appropriate treatment, said Public Health England (PHE) in a press release.

This patient traveled on Saudi Arabian Airlines flight (number SV123) on August 16, 2018.

The patient is a resident of the Middle East, where they are believed to have contracted the MERS-CoV infection, before traveling to the UK.

This is the 5th case of MERS diagnosed in England, with previous cases diagnosed in 2012 to 2013, said PHE.

MERS-CoV (the virus that causes MERS) can be spread when someone is in close contact with a patient for a sustained period of time. This means there is a very low risk to the general population of becoming ill. 

Healthcare professionals are advised to remain vigilant for severe unexplained respiratory illness occurring in anyone who has recently traveled into the UK from the Middle East, particularly in light of increased travel associated with the Hajj.

The Hajj, which is from about August 19 to August 24, 2018, is one of the world’s largest mass gatherings each year.

If people show symptoms of MERS after traveling to the Middle East, they should contact health services by calling their GP or NHS 111, says PHE.

Reporting potential illness is important for controlling outbreaks.

As an example, during the summer of 2015, a single business person returned to South Korea from Saudi Arabia and was the index case for a South Korean epidemic in 17 hospitals around the country.   

That epidemic was comprised of 186 confirmed cases with an approximate 20 percent case fatality rate.

Since the MERS-CoV was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012, as of May 2018 the World Health Organization indicates that laboratory-confirmed MERS cases have been reported for 2,229 people worldwide, with 791 deaths, for a case fatality rate of 36 percent.

There may be a MERS vaccine in the near future. 

On August 7th, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. announced positive Phase 1 results of its MERS vaccine candidate INO-4700 (GLS-5300). 

This MERS study, in partnership with the Walter Reed Army Institute, showed that the vaccine was well-tolerated and demonstrated overall high levels of antibody responses in roughly 95% of subjects.

Additionally, INO-4700 generated broad-based T cell responses in nearly 90% of study participants.