Publications by authors named "Mohd Alhajri"

10 Publications

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MERS-CoV in Camels but Not Camel Handlers, Sudan, 2015 and 2017.

Emerg Infect Dis 2019 12;25(12):2333-2335

We tested samples collected from camels, camel workers, and other animals in Sudan and Qatar in 2015 and 2017 for evidence of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection. MERS-CoV antibodies were abundant in Sudan camels, but we found no evidence of MERS-CoV infection in camel workers, other livestock, or bats.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2512.190882DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6874263PMC
December 2019

Qatar experience on One Health approach for middle-east respiratory syndrome coronavirus, 2012-2017: A viewpoint.

One Health 2019 Jun 4;7:100090. Epub 2019 Apr 4.

Ministry of Public of Health, Doha, Qatar.

The emergence of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (MERS-CoV) in the Middle East in 2012 was associated with an overwhelming uncertainty about its epidemiological and clinical characteristics. Once dromedary camels () was found to be the natural reservoir of the virus, the public health systems across the Arabian Peninsula encountered an unprecedented pressure to control its transmission. This view point describes how the One Health approach was used in Qatar to manage the MERS-CoV outbreak during the period 2012-2017. One Health focuses on the association between the human, animals and environment sectors for total health and wellbeing of these three sectors. To manage the MERS outbreak in Qatar through a One Health approach, the Qatar National Outbreak Control Taskforce (OCT) was reactivated in November 2012. The animal health sector was invited to join the OCT. Later on, technical expertise was requested from the WHO, FAO, CDC, EMC, and PHE. Subsequently, a comprehensive One Health roadmap was delivered through leadership and coordination; surveillance and investigation; epidemiological studies and increase of local diagnostic capacity. The joint OCT, once trained had easy access to allocated resources and high risk areas to provide more evidence on the potential source of the virus and to investigate all reported cases within 24-48 h. Lack of sufficient technical guidance on veterinary surveillance and poor risk perception among the vulnerable population constituted major obstacles to maintain systematic One Health performance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.onehlt.2019.100090DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6462540PMC
June 2019

Knowledge, Attitude, and Practice Regarding Zika Among Travelers to Brazil: Qatar's Airport Study 2017.

Cureus 2018 Sep 10;10(9):e3280. Epub 2018 Sep 10.

Epidemiology and Public Health, Ministry of Public Health, Doha, QAT.

Background The Zika virus has become an international health issue and poses a systematic risk for a growing number of travelers. Qatar is no exception to this status, where its Hamad International Airport (HIA) has become an important hub for many travelers to and from affected countries. Thus, it is a national necessity to determine the knowledge, attitude, and practice of travelers' regarding this emerging disease in the State of Qatar. Methods This was a cross-sectional study that employed a self-administered questionnaire (n=100) and was conducted at Hamad International Airport. Descriptive and inferential statistical tests were applied to analyze the data using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) (IBM SPSS Statistics 21, IBM Corporation, Armonk, NY, USA, 2014). Results The majority of travelers (75%) reported hearing about the Zika disease prior to their current flight, mainly from the media (73%) and the internet (46%). The majority of participants (69%) knew about the vector-borne transmission and symptomatology of a Zika infection while more than half (54%) correctly identified effective methods to prevent infection. Regarding their attitude, less than two-thirds (58%) of the participants agreed that pregnant women must postpone their travel to any Zika-affected area. Regarding their practice, only a quarter of the sampled travelers (24%) sought pre-travel medical advice before going to Brazil. Comparing the knowledge score among different education levels, we found that high-school students scored significantly better than those with diplomas and bachelors, p=0.042 and p=0.012, respectively. Conclusion The survey findings revealed that the knowledge of Zika infection is low among travelers to Brazil. Thus, stronger efforts to educate travelers about Zika are recommended. It is also vital that travelers be encouraged to seek proper medical advice prior to travel.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7759/cureus.3280DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6333323PMC
September 2018

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

How Do the First Days Count? A Case Study of Qatar Experience in Emergency Risk Communication during the MERS-CoV Outbreak.

Int J Environ Res Public Health 2017 12 19;14(12). Epub 2017 Dec 19.

Division of Policy Translation & Leadership Development, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

This case study is the first to be developed in the Middle East region to document what happened during the response to the 2013 MERS outbreak in Qatar. It provides a description of key epidemiologic events and news released from a prime daily newspaper and main Emergency Risk Communication (ERC) actions that were undertaken by public health authorities. Using the Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) theoretical framework, the study analyzes how the performed ERC strategies during the first days of the outbreak might have contributed to the outbreak management.

Methods: MERS-CoV related events were chronologically tracked, together with the relevant stories that were published in a major newspaper over the course of three distinct phases of the epidemic. The collected media stories were then assessed against the practiced emergency risk communication (ERC) activities during the same time frame.

Results: The Crisis & Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) framework was partially followed during the early days of the MERS-CoV epidemic, which were characterized by overwhelming uncertainty. The SCH's commitment to a proactive and open risk communication strategy since day one, contributed to creating the SCH's image as a credible source of information and allowed for the quick initiation of the overall response efforts. Yet, conflicting messages and over reassurance were among the observed pitfalls of the implemented ERC strategy.

Conclusion: The adoption of CERC principles can help restore and maintain the credibility of responding agencies. Further work is needed to develop more rigorous and comprehensive research strategies that address sharing of information by mainstream as well as social media for a more accurate assessment of the impact of the ERC strategy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14121597DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5751014PMC
December 2017

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

Reliable typing of MERS-CoV variants with a small genome fragment.

J Clin Virol 2015 Mar 15;64:83-7. Epub 2014 Dec 15.

Department of Viroscience, Erasmus Medical Center, P.O. Box 2040, 3000 CA Rotterdam, Netherlands; Virology Division, Centre for Infectious Diseases Research, Diagnostics and Screening, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven 3720BA, Netherlands. Electronic address:

Background: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is an emerging pathogen that causes lower respiratory tract infection in humans. Camels are the likely animal source for zoonotic infection, although exact transmission modes remain to be determined. Human-to-human transmission occurs sporadically. The wide geographic distribution of MERS-CoV among dromedary camels and ongoing transmissions to humans provides concern for the evolution of a MERS-CoV variant with efficient human-to-human transmission capabilities. Phylogenetic analysis of MERS-CoV has occurred by analysis of full-length genomes or multiple concatenated genome fragments, which is time-consuming, costly and limited to high viral load samples.

Objective: To develop a simple, reliable MERS-CoV variant typing assay to facilitate monitoring of MERS-CoV diversity in animals and humans.

Study Design: Phylogenetic analysis of presently known full-length MERS-CoV genomes was performed to identify genomic regions with sufficient phylogenetic content to allow reliable MERS-CoV variant typing. RT-PCR assays targeting these regions were designed and optimized.

Results: A reverse-transcription PCR assay for MERS-CoV targeting a 615 bp spike fragment provides a phylogenetic clustering of MERS-CoV variants comparable to that of full-length genomes. The detection limit corresponds to a cycle treshold value of ∼ 35 with standard upE real time PCR assays on RNA isolated from MERS-CoV EMC. Nasal swabs from RT-PCR positive camels (Ct values 12.9-32.2) yielded reliable sequence information in 14 samples.

Conclusions: We developed a simple, reliable MERS-CoV variant typing assay which is crucial in monitoring MERS-CoV circulation in real time with relatively little investment on location.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcv.2014.12.006DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7106551PMC
March 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