- The World Health Organization (WHO) is spearheading an effort to prepare for the next Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak, and the U.S. and Saudi Arabia may be collaborating on a vaccine for the pathogen.
- MERS has killed at least 571 of 1,595 people who have been infected since September 2012.
- There are currently no licensed vaccines available for MERS.
There are a lot of questions surrounding MERS, including which animals harbor the virus, besides camels. In addition, infection-control standards with MERS have been lax in the past, leading to transmission in Saudi hospitals and an outbreak in South Korea.
One thing that scientists do know, however, is that MERS is similar in many ways to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)—a virus responsible for roughly 800 deaths between 2002 and 2003.
The good news in this story is that the Saudi Arabian Health Minister Khaled al-Falih has signaled interest in moving forward with a collaborative vaccine development effort, and scientists have had already had some early signs of success in animal models. In addition, there is $70 million in funding for the effort, which should definitely help move things forward.