6 Things You Need to Know When Testing for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

By Andy Tofilon

In May, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed two cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the United States. MERS affects the respiratory system (lungs and upper airway). According to the CDC, most MERS patients have developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

To ensure health care providers know how to handle suspected cases, the Mayo Clinic Virology Laboratory advises the following steps for testing:

icon-blue-notify

NOTIFY

Notify the epidemiologist at your state department of health for approval to send specimen(s) to the state health laboratory for testing.

icon-blue-vial

COLLECT

If approval is obtained, collect the samples required for submission. The samples recommended by CDC for MERS-CoV testing include (in order of priority):

  • Lower respiratory specimen (such as bronchoalveolar lavage, bronchial washing, sputum or tracheal aspirate)
  • Nasopharyngeal swab
  • Serum or plasma
  • Stool
icon-blue-dna

RULE OUT

Molecular testing to rule-out other respiratory viral infections (e.g., influenza A/B, respiratory syncytial virus, adenovirus) is available through Mayo Medical Laboratories.

icon-blue-dont

DO NOT SEND VIRAL CULTURES

  • Do NOT submit samples collected from patients with possible MERS-CoV to Mayo Medical Laboratories for viral culture.
  • Propagation of this virus in culture is hazardous to laboratory personnel and special precautions are necessary.
  • Viral culture should only be performed at a state health department or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
icon-blue-packaging

PACKAGE IT UP

icon-blue-info

LEARN MORE

Additional information on MERS-CoV is available on the CDC website.

andytofilon

Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. He leads strategies for corporate communications, public relations, and new media innovations. Andy has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2003. Outside of work, Andy can be found running, hiking, snapping photos, and most importantly, spending time with his family.