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We describe a novel spike pseudoparticle neutralisation assay (ppNT) for seroepidemiological studies on Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and apply this assay together with conventional microneutralisation (MN) tests to investigate 1,343 human and 625 animal sera. The sera were collected in Egypt as a region adjacent to areas where MERS has been described, and in Hong Kong, China as a control region. Sera from dromedary camels had a high prevalence of antibody reactive to MERS-CoV by MERS NT (93.6%) and MERS ppNT (98.2%) assay. The antibody titres ranged up to 1,280 and higher in MN assays and 10,240 and higher in ppNT assays. No other investigated species had any antibody reactivity to MERS-CoV. While seropositivity does not exclude the possibility of infection with a closely related virus, our data highlight the need to attempt detection of MERS-CoV or related coronaviruses in dromedary camels. The data show excellent correlation between the conventional MN assay and the novel ppNT assay. The newly developed ppNT assay does not require Biosafety Level 3 containment and is thus a relatively high-throughput assay, well suited for large-scale seroepidemiology studies which are needed to better understand the ecology and epidemiology of MERS-CoV.


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