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Using a combination of RT-PCR and sequencing, researchers from King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere found that Middle East respiratory syndrome-CoV isolated from a Saudi man was identical to strain infecting a camel in the man's herd.

"It unequivocally demonstrates that transmission from camels to people is possible," Columbia University virologist Ian Lipkin, who wasn't involved in the study, tells NPR.

As the researchers report in the New England Journal of Medicine, this finding suggest that MERS is a zoonotic infection that can infect dromedary camel and that can spread from them to humans through close contact.

They further note that MERS-CoV appears to transiently infect camels, indicating that they are an intermediate host, rather than the reservoir of the virus.

MERS has infected nearly 700 people, New Scientist adds, with 41 percent of the infecting people dying. About a hundred of those cases, it notes, were recently reported, possibly due to a backlog of samples or searches of hospital records.