Publications by authors named "Farhoud Alhajri"

7 Publications

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Survey on Implementation of One Health Approach for MERS-CoV Preparedness and Control in Gulf Cooperation Council and Middle East Countries.

Emerg Infect Dis 2019 03;25(3)

In 2015, a One Health Working Group was established in Qatar to conduct a survey in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Egypt, and Jordan to monitor preparedness of public health and veterinary health authorities in response to the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus epidemic. All but 1 country indicated they established joint One Health policy teams for investigation and response. However, the response to the questionnaires was largely limited to veterinary authorities. Critical barriers and limitations were identified. National and regional leaders, policy makers, and stakeholders should be prompted to advocate and enhance adoption of the One Health framework to mitigate the risk for Middle East respiratory syndrome and other emerging zoonotic diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2503.171702DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6390738PMC
March 2019

Drivers of MERS-CoV Emergence in Qatar.

Viruses 2018 12 31;11(1). Epub 2018 Dec 31.

Department of Viroscience, Erasmus University Medical Center, Wytemaweg 80, 3015 CN Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome corona virus) antibodies were detected in camels since 1983, but the first human case was only detected in 2012. This study sought to identify and quantify possible drivers for the MERS-CoV emergence and spillover to humans. A list of potential human, animal and environmental drivers for disease emergence were identified from literature. Trends in possible drivers were analyzed from national and international databases, and through structured interviews with experts in Qatar. The discovery and exploitation of oil and gas led to a 5-fold increase in Qatar GDP coupled with a 7-fold population growth in the past 30 years. The lifestyle gradually transformed from Bedouin life to urban sedentary life, along with a sharp increase in obesity and other comorbidities. Owing to substantial governmental support, camel husbandry and competitions flourished, exacerbating the already rapidly occurring desertification that forced banning of free grazing in 2005. Consequently, camels were housed in compact barns alongside their workers. The transition in husbandry leading to high density camel farming along with increased exposure to humans, combined with the increase of camel movement for the racing and breeding industry, have led to a convergence of factors driving spillover of MERS-CoV from camels to humans.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/v11010022DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6356962PMC
December 2018

Occupational Exposure to Dromedaries and Risk for MERS-CoV Infection, Qatar, 2013-2014.

Emerg Infect Dis 2015 Aug;21(8):1422-5

We determined the presence of neutralizing antibodies to Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in persons in Qatar with and without dromedary contact. Antibodies were only detected in those with contact, suggesting dromedary exposure as a risk factor for infection. Findings also showed evidence for substantial underestimation of the infection in populations at risk in Qatar.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2108.150481DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4517733PMC
August 2015

High proportion of MERS-CoV shedding dromedaries at slaughterhouse with a potential epidemiological link to human cases, Qatar 2014.

Infect Ecol Epidemiol 2015 15;5:28305. Epub 2015 Jul 15.

Department of Viroscience, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Two of the earliest Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) cases were men who had visited the Doha central animal market and adjoining slaughterhouse in Qatar. We show that a high proportion of camels presenting for slaughter in Qatar show evidence for nasal MERS-CoV shedding (62/105). Sequence analysis showed the circulation of at least five different virus strains at these premises, suggesting that this location is a driver of MERS-CoV circulation and a high-risk area for human exposure. No correlation between RNA loads and levels of neutralizing antibodies was observed, suggesting limited immune protection and potential for reinfection despite previous exposure.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4505336PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/iee.v5.28305DOI Listing
July 2015

Immunogenicity of an adenoviral-based Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus vaccine in BALB/c mice.

Vaccine 2014 Oct 3;32(45):5975-82. Epub 2014 Sep 3.

Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15224, USA. Electronic address:

A new type of coronavirus has been identified as the causative agent underlying Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has spread in the Middle East, but cases originating in the Middle East have also occurred in the European Union and the USA. Eight hundred and thirty-seven cases of MERS-CoV infection have been confirmed to date, including 291 deaths. MERS-CoV has infected dromedary camel populations in the Middle East at high rates, representing an immediate source of human infection. The MERS-CoV spike (S) protein, a characteristic structural component of the viral envelope, is considered as a key target of vaccines against coronavirus infection. In an initial attempt to develop a MERS-CoV vaccine to ultimately target dromedary camels, we constructed two recombinant adenoviral vectors encoding the full-length MERS-CoV S protein (Ad5.MERS-S) and the S1 extracellular domain of S protein (Ad5.MERS-S1). BALB/c mice were immunized with both candidate vaccines intramuscularly and boosted three weeks later intranasally. All the vaccinated animals had antibody responses against spike protein, which neutralized MERS-CoV in vitro. These results show that an adenoviral-based vaccine can induce MERS-CoV-specific immune responses in mice and hold promise for the development of a preventive vaccine that targets the animal reservoir, which might be an effective measure to eliminate transmission of MERS-CoV to humans.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.08.058DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7115510PMC
October 2014

Isolation of MERS coronavirus from a dromedary camel, Qatar, 2014.

Emerg Infect Dis 2014 Aug;20(8):1339-42

We obtained the full genome of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) from a camel in Qatar. This virus is highly similar to the human England/Qatar 1 virus isolated in 2012. The MERS-CoV from the camel efficiently replicated in human cells, providing further evidence for the zoonotic potential of MERS-CoV from camels.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2008.140663DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4111206PMC
August 2014

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in dromedary camels: an outbreak investigation.

Lancet Infect Dis 2014 Feb 17;14(2):140-5. Epub 2013 Dec 17.

Department of Viroscience, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, Netherlands; Centre for Infectious Disease Research, Diagnostics and Screening, Division of Virology, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, Netherlands. Electronic address:

Background: Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) causes severe lower respiratory tract infection in people. Previous studies suggested dromedary camels were a reservoir for this virus. We tested for the presence of MERS-CoV in dromedary camels from a farm in Qatar linked to two human cases of the infection in October, 2013.

Methods: We took nose swabs, rectal swabs, and blood samples from all camels on the Qatari farm. We tested swabs with RT-PCR, with amplification targeting the E gene (upE), nucleocapsid (N) gene, and open reading frame (ORF) 1a. PCR positive samples were tested by different MERS-CoV specific PCRs and obtained sequences were used for phylogentic analysis together with sequences from the linked human cases and other human cases. We tested serum samples from the camels for IgG immunofluorescence assay, protein microarray, and virus neutralisation assay.

Findings: We obtained samples from 14 camels on Oct 17, 2013. We detected MERS-CoV in nose swabs from three camels by three independent RT-PCRs and sequencing. The nucleotide sequence of an ORF1a fragment (940 nucleotides) and a 4·2 kb concatenated fragment were very similar to the MERS-CoV from two human cases on the same farm and a MERS-CoV isolate from Hafr-Al-Batin. Eight additional camel nose swabs were positive on one or more RT-PCRs, but could not be confirmed by sequencing. All camels had MERS-CoV spike-binding antibodies that correlated well with the presence of neutralising antibodies to MERS-CoV.

Interpretation: Our study provides virological confirmation of MERS-CoV in camels and suggests a recent outbreak affecting both human beings and camels. We cannot conclude whether the people on the farm were infected by the camels or vice versa, or if a third source was responsible.

Funding: European Union projects EMPERIE (contract number 223498), ANTIGONE (contract number 278976), and the VIRGO consortium.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(13)70690-XDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7106553PMC
February 2014