The recombination potential between SARS-CoV-2 and MERS-CoV from cross-species spill-over infections

Abdulrahim A. Sajini, Almohanad A. Alkayyal, Fathi A. Mubaraki

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Countries in the Middle-East (ME) are tackling two corona virus outbreaks simultaneously, Middle-Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and the current Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Both viruses infect the same host (humans) and the same cell (type-II alveolar cells) causing lower respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia. Molecularly, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 enter alveolar cells via spike proteins recognizing dipeptidyl peptidase-4 and angiotensin converting enzyme-II, respectively. Intracellularly, both viruses hide in organelles to generate negative RNA strands and initiate replication using very similar mechanisms. At the transcription level, both viruses utilise identical Transcription Regulatory Sequences (TRSs), which are known recombination cross-over points during replication, to transcribe genes. Using whole genome alignments of both viruses, we identify clusters of high sequence homology at ORF1a and ORF1b. Given the high recombination rates detected in SARS-CoV-2, we speculate that in co-infections recombination is feasible via TRS and/or clusters of homologies. Accordingly, here we recommend mitigation measure and testing for both MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 in ME countries.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)155-159
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Epidemiology and Global Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Dromedary camels
  • Humans
  • MERS-CoV
  • Recombination
  • SARS-CoV-2


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