Genetic drift of MERS-CoV suggests that camel may not be the sources of
Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is caused by MERS-CoV. To
explore the conservation of non-coding 5’-UTR of MERS-CoV and its
implication in epidermiology, 5’-UTRs from 252 human MERS-CoV and 207
camel and dromedary camel MERS-CoV were analyzed. We identified two
conserved pyrimidine nucleotides that flank identical UAAU element in
the loop of stem loop 2 of MERS-CoV 5’-UTR. These conserved pyrimidine
nucleotides can be used as a novel genetic signature to re-genotype
MERS-CoV into 3 types, i.e. U—-U, C—-U, and C—-C type viruses.
Human MERS-CoV displays a genetic drift from U—-U, C—-U, to C—-C
during period of 2012-2019. Camel virus only displayed a genetic drift
from U—-U to C—-U, particularly in a delayed way when compared with
human virus. The discrepancy in genetic drift suggests that camel may
not necessarily be the natural reservior for human infection.