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Kingdom registers sixth MERS death, 11th case

By Khetam Malkawi , AFP - Jun 01,2014 - Last updated at Jun 01,2014

AMMAN/GENEVA — The Kingdom has registered its sixth Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus-related fatality of a 69-year-old man, a Ministry of Health official said on Sunday.

Sultan Qasrawi, director of the ministry’s communicable diseases directorate, said the patient was diagnosed with the disease on May 23, and died last Wednesday after five days in hospital.

He explained that the man was suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes.

“We are still investigating how he contracted the disease,” Qasrawi told The Jordan Times, adding that a new case of corona was also diagnosed this week in one of medics working at a hospital in Zarqa, some 22km east of Amman.

With this case, the total number of MERS coronavirus cases diagnosed in the Kingdom, since the discovery, of the first one in 2012, is 11.

Of the six deaths registered in Jordan, three were medics, according to ministry officials.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause a range of illnesses in humans, from the common cold to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The global SARS epidemic in 2002 killed nearly 800 people, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Viruses in this family also cause a number of animal diseases, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) website.

MERS is a strain of coronavirus that was first identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. It is believed to have originated in camels. It has so far killed over 193 people out of more than 636 confirmed cases, AFP said.

Earlier this month, experts at a WHO meeting in Geneva confirmed that MERS was spreading but had yet to reach the level of global emergency.

On Friday, AFP quoted an international team of scientists as saying that they have identified a compound that can fight coronaviruses.

A team of scientists led by Edward Trybala from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and Volker Thiel from the University of Bern, have discovered a compound called K22, which appears to block the ability of the virus to spread in humans.

“This finding is important in light of the fact that some emerging coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS... are potential pandemic-causing pathogens,” Trybala said in an e-mail to AFP.

The team screened 16,671 different compounds before realising that K22 could combat a weak form of coronavirus that causes mild cold-like symptoms, AFP reported from Geneva.

They then went on to show that it can fight more serious strains, including SARS and MERS.

In an article for specialist journal “PLOS Pathogens”, the scientists explained that the virus reproduces in the cells that line the human respiratory system.

The virus takes over the membranes that separate different parts of human cells, reshaping them into a sort of protective armour in order to start its production cycle, and so creating “viral factories”, Trybala told AFP.

K22 acts at an early stage in this process, preventing the virus from taking control of the cell membranes and so opening up “new treatment possibilities”, he said.

While K22 still has a way to go before it can be tested on humans, Trybala still believes “that identification of this new strategy of combating coronaviruses will aid to develop an effective and safe antiviral drug”.

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