(HealthDay News) — The rate of transmission of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) from patients to household contacts is about 5%, according to research published in the August 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Christian Drosten, MD, of the University of Bonn Medical Center in Germany, and colleagues studied 26 index patients with MERS-CoV infection and their 280 household contacts to assess rates of secondary transmission. Reactivity in reverse-transcriptase-polymerase-chain-reaction (RT-PCR) assays or on enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay against MERS-CoV S1 antigen was used to identify probable cases of secondary transmission.

The researchers identified 12 probable cases of secondary transmission (4%; 95% confidence interval, 2–7%) among the 280 household contacts of the 26 index patients. Seven of the cases were identified using RT-PCR on samples obtained within 14 days after symptom onset in index patients. Five of the cases were identified using serologic analysis of samples obtained 13 days or more after symptom onset in index patients. Probable cases of secondary transmission were found in six of 26 clusters (23%).

“The rate of secondary transmission among household contacts of patients with MERS-CoV infection has been approximately 5%,” the authors write. “Our data provide insight into the rate of subclinical transmission of MERS-CoV in the home.”

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