Six patients fall ill with the new corona virus

Update from 23 November 2012

Press information of the German Centre for Infection Research 

CoronavirusF. A. Murphy, University of TexasOn Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported further cases of illness caused by the new corona virus; the number of laboratory-confirmed cases has thus risen to a total of six, four patients originating from Saudi Arabia and two from Qatar. Two of the four patients from Saudi Arabia have died. The two patients from Qatar have been treated in London and Germany and are recovering from their serious illness. The Robert Koch Institute reported that the patient from Qatar had been in hospital for four weeks in North Rhine-Westphalia receiving treatment for severe symptoms of the respiratory tract and was able to be discharged this week after intensive care treatment (www.rki.de). The UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) confirmed this week that the patient had been infected with the new corona virus. So far, no-one else in the immediate environment of the patient who was treated in Germany has fallen ill, but people who have had contact with him are still being examined. The RKI furthermore assumes that there are no indications of a human-to-human transmission.


An outbreak within a family has been observed for the first time in Saudi Arabia: the new corona virus has been detected in two family members who fell ill (one of whom has died); an initial laboratory test on two more family members who were also suffering from respiratory infection was negative; the results of a further test are still outstanding. 


A noticeable characteristic of the  disease is that patients suffer from a severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) and often develop acute renal failure in addition.

The WHO is now appealing to doctors to look for such symptoms and test patients for the new corona virus, where necessary, even if they do not have a clear travel history, and to report these cases to the Public Health Authority.  


The Emerging Infections unit at the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF) is working intensely on such new or newly occurring viruses. The test method used to detect the pathogens was developed by DZIF member Professor Christian Drosten (Bonn), amongst others. The ability to quickly test suspected cases for new types of infections is an important step towards the effectual management of infectious diseases and the global containment of infection hazards. 


The German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF) is a recently established alliance of the leading research institutions in the life sciences in Germany. The Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) has been funding the Centre since November 2011. 


Prof. Christian Drosten (University of Bonn): drosten@virology-bonn.de 

Tel +49-228-287-11055

Prof. Stephan Becker (University of Marburg): becker@staff.uni-marburg.de 

Tel: +49-6421-28-6653



Christian Drosten (University of Bonn): “The authorities in Saudi Arabia have only slowly begun to look specifically for cases. The outbreak in the family, which was only discovered when researchers began to actively search for cases, shows that the situation is probably more serious than initially thought. It is certainly possible that family members can be infected from a common source – bit it is more likely that the virus is transferred from humans to humans.”


Professor Stephan Becker (Philips University of Marburg): “The further cases show that the new corona virus is either circulating in the population in Saudi Arabia or is repeatedly able to transfer from its natural reservoir to humans. Serological investigations of the infection which are able to show the extent of the infections are now urgently required.”  






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