WASHINGTON, July 22 (UPI) -- MERS, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, may be transmitted by air, a paper published Tuesday in the scientific journal mBio suggests.
The infection has resulted in 836 laboratory-confirmed cases and at least 288 related deaths, the World Health organization said, and scientists remain unsure of how the virus is transmitted.
According to the paper in mBio, published by the Washington-based American Society of Microbiology, an air sample from a camel barn -- collected by researchers from King Fahd Medical Research Center in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia -- tested positive for a a strain of MERS RNA, the viral genome. It happened the same day nine camels in the barn tested positive for the same strain.
"These data show evidence for the presence of the airborne MERS in the same barn that was owned by the patient and sheltered the infected camels," the authors wrote.
Analysts say it is premature to conclude the MERS virus is exclusively transferred by airborne means, although there is suspicion it can move between infected animals and humans. Previous reports have demonstrated a person in close contact with a MERS patient can be infected, but the pathways for the virus remain unclear.