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The genetic diversity of Co Vs in bats exceeds that known for any other host, which is compatible with bats being the major reservoir of mammalian Co Vs (2).In 2002 to 2003, an emerging HCo V, termed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-Co V), caused a pandemic involving about 8,000 cases, about 10% of whom died. The evolutionary origins of SARS-Co V involved bat hosts, possibly with civets as intermediate hosts and the source of human infection (3, 4).

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This suggests a higher level of viral diversity in camels than in humans.

Together with serologic evidence for widespread MERS-Co V infection in camelids sampled up to 20 years ago in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, the genetic data indicate that camels act as sources of virus for humans rather than vice versa.

Eighty-five percent of the Neo Co V genome was identical to MERS-Co V at the nucleotide level.

Based on taxonomic criteria, Neo Co V and MERS-Co V belonged to one viral species.

The bat virus roots the phylogenetic tree of MERS-Co V and shows that MERS-Co V evolution in camelids likely preceded that in humans.

bat from South Africa was sampled and tested positive for Co Vs, as described previously (22).The emergence of MERS-Co V likely involved exchanges of genetic elements between different viral ancestors.These exchanges may have taken place either in bat ancestors or in camels acting as mixing vessels for viruses from different hosts. Betacoronaviruses are further divided into four genetic clades, termed clades a to d (1).Genomic fragments that could not be amplified by these assays were connected by bridging RT-PCR using Neo Co V-specific primers (available upon request) and sequenced by dye terminator chemistry.Determination of genome ends was done by using a rapid amplification of c DNA ends kit (Roche, Penzberg, Germany).In 2012, a novel HCo V, termed Middle East respiratory syndrome Co V (MERS-Co V), was detected in a patient with a fatal respiratory infection in Saudi Arabia (5).

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