The first workshop on the diagnostics of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) took place in Dubai in December 2015. The event was initiated by Prof Christian Drosten und Dr Marcel Müller, amongst others, from the Institute of Virology at the University of Bonn. The institute was one of the first facilities focusing their research on MERS-CoV when the virus was detected in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2012. Shortly after, EUROIMMUN developed the first serological test systems (indirect immunofluorescence test and ELISA) for the detection of anti-MERS-CoV antibodies in cooperation with Prof Drosten’s group.
The virus is endemic in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as well as in further countries of the Arabian Peninsula and has caused multiple outbreaks of a severe respiratory infectious disease, called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), in this region. Due to the increasing international tourism, the virus also has been introduced to other countries in the meantime, e.g. South Korea. The country suffered the largest outbreak of MERS outside the Arab countries. Reliable diagnostic tests are required to prevent further spreading of the virus and to avoid additional outbreaks. Furthermore, the methods and analyses can help to better understand the epidemiology of this infectious disease.
Therefore, the workshop aimed at informing laboratory personnel from the affected regions about newest findings on MERS-CoV and instructing them in the safe application of the serological and molecular genetic test systems.
The project was supported by the WHO and the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment and Water of the UAE. The Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, CVRL, which was founded by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum in Dubai in 1985, now under the scientific direction of Dr Ulrich Wernery and Renate Wernery, was also significantly involved in the organisation of the workshop and provided the infrastructure and rooms for the training.
Colleagues from the German EUROIMMUN AG and its subsidiary in Dubai led the practical training for the 30 participants from 15 different countries who obtained detailed insight into the development and performance of the serological tests to detect the anti-MERS-CoV antibodies. Usually, these can be found from day 10 after onset of the first symptoms of infection.