MERS and MERS-CoV Virucidal Efficacy Testing for Disinfectants and Antiseptics

As of June 3, 2015, there are 30 confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea, with 2 deaths 1. MERS is a viral respiratory illness caused by a virus called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) 2. An outbreak of MERS in 2012 affected up to 22 countries, primarily in the Middle East, and resulted in hundreds of deaths 3.

This article gives an overview of the disease, the causing virus and testing methodologies for disinfectants and antiseptics for efficacy against MERS-CoV.

Symptoms and Epidemiology

The first case of MERS was reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 3. Countries with confirmed MERS cases are mostly in or near the Arabian Peninsula, such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon and Iran, etc. Some other countries, including the U.S., had reported sporadic or small clusters of cases. To date, there have been over 600 cases of MERS and over 180 deaths 4.

MERS affects the respiratory system. Most MERS patients developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, expectoration, and shortness of breath. More severe complications such as pneumonia and kidney failure may follow as the disease progresses. About 30% of the patients died. The virus can spread from ill people to others through close contact. The incubation period for MERS (time between exposure and onset of symptoms) is 2-15 days (average 5.5 days) 4.

The exact source of MERS-CoV is uncertain. However, reports have suggested a link between the disease in
humans and in animals such as camels 5.

Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment

The diagnosis of MERS-CoV is mostly through either polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays coupled with genome sequencing, which target the RNA of the virus, or serology testing which uses blood samples and looks for antibodies to MERS-CoV, along with clinical evaluations.

Currently, there is no vaccine or specific drugs for MERS-CoV. Per CDC, regular preventive actions such as washing hands often and thoroughly, covering nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, avoiding personal contact with sick people, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces such as toys and doorknobs, etc., are highly useful in helping controlling the spread of the disease.

Per WHO guidelines, individuals such healthcare workers coming into contact with MERS suspects should (in addition to standard precautions) wear a medical mask, wear eye protection (i.e. goggles or a face shield), wear a clean, non sterile, long sleeved gown and gloves, and perform hand hygiene before and after contact with the patient and his or her surroundings and immediately after removal of personal protective equipment 6.

MERS-COV Biology

MERS-CoV (also termed EMC/2012, HCoV-EMC/2012), is positive-sense, single-stranded RNA virus belonging to the Coronaviridae family of viruses. MERS-CoV genomes are phylogenetically classified into two clades, clade A and B. The earliest cases were of clade A clusters (EMC/2012 and Jordan-N3/2012), and new cases are genetically distinct (clade B).

MERS-CoV is distinct from SARS and distinct from the common-cold coronavirus. The name “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)” was officially adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2013. Before then, MERS-CoV had frequently been referred to as a SARS-like virus, or simply the novel coronavirus, and early it was referred to colloquially as the “Saudi SARS”.

Efficacy Testing for Disinfectants, Antiseptics and Devices

Microbac Laboratories, Inc. is a leading contract testing laboratory for antimicrobial/antiviral testing for disinfectants, antiseptics and medical devices with more than 28 years of experience in the industry. We are excited to announce that we now offer regulatory compliant testing for disinfectants, antiseptics and medical devices for efficacy against MERS-COV.

Disinfectants should be tested following the ASTM E1053-11 method for U.S. EPA or Canada submission; or the EN14476 method for European Union submission. Antiseptics should be tested following ASTM E1052-11 or EN14476. All these tests are readily available at Microbac, under GLP, non- GLP, or cGMP depending on the goal of the project. Our laboratories are also ISO 17025 accredited. We are proud to offer excellent regulatory compliance, quality, cost competitiveness and fast turn-around to our clients.


4. Ali Mohamed Zaki et al. (2012). “Isolation of a novel coronavirus from a man with pneumonia in
Saudi Arabia”. New England Journal of Medicine 367 (19): 1814–20.
5. Assiri, A. et al. (2013). “Hospital Outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus”. New England Journal of Medicine 369 (5).
6. Azhar, EI et al. (2014). “Evidence for Camel-to-Human Transmission of MERS Coronavirus”. New England Journal of Medicine 370 (26).
7. World Health Organization (WHO), “Infection prevention and control during health care for probable or confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (nCoV) infection”, Published 5/6/2013.