A cross-sectional study was conducted between October 2014 and May 2015, to determine the sero-prevalence, assess the presence of active cases through isolation and identify possible risk factors for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (MERS-CoV) in camels, in selected areas of Oromia and Afar regional states of Ethiopia. A total of 569 dromedary camel sera were collected and screened with two serological tests: Pseudo particle neutralization for screening and Micro-neutralization test for confirmation. The overall prevalence of MERS-CoV in the study area was 93% (n=529). Higher prevalence (93.9%) was recorded in female dromedary camels compared to males (91.3%) but the difference was not significant (Chi-Square=1.323 and P=0.250). Age wise prevalence was higher in adult camels (94.6%) than young ones (90.8%), however the difference was statistically insignificant (Chi-Square=3.068 and P=0.080). Similarly, higher prevalence was recorded in larger herds (93.4%) than small herds but the difference observed was not statistically significant (Chi-Square=0.220 and p=0.639). Also, no significant (Chi-Square 0.525 and P=0.469) difference was observed in prevalence between the two regions (Oromia=93.3% and Afar=93.3%). However significant difference was observed in the lower administrations of the regions (Zones, District and Kebeles) in which the highest prevalence recorded in East Shoa, Fentale district of Adis Ketema kebele (99.3%). From total of 100 swabs collected, MERS-CoV was detected in seven (1 Fentale, 4 Amibara and 2 Dubti) districts by Real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Generally, this study showed the existence of high seroprevalence of MERS-CoV among Ethiopian dromedary camels, which was also confirmed by RT-PCR. Therefore further study is required to determine its significance from both animal and public health perspectives and further research should focus on identifying similarity between MERS-CoV viral isolates in neighboring countries and clinical isolates from the Middle East and elsewhere.
Key words: Dromedary camel, MERS-CoV, serum, swab, Real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), Ethiopia.
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