Generation of a human Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (HCoV-MERS) infectious clone system by recombination of bacterial artificial chromosomes
Coronaviruses have caused high pathogenic epidemics within the human population on two occasions; in 2003 a coronavirus (HCoV-SARS) caused severe acute respiratory syndrome and in 2012 a novel coronavirus emerged named Middle East respiratory syndrome (HCoV-MERS). Four other species of coronavirus circulate endemically in the human population (HCoV-229E, HCoV-OC43, HCoV-NL63 and HCoV-HKU1), which cause more benign respiratory disease than either HCoV-SARS or HCoV-MERS. The emergence of HCoV-MERS provides an additional opportunity to study the characteristics of coronaviruses. Reverse genetics can be used to study an organism’s phenotype by logical mutation of its genotype. Construction of an infectious clone construct provides a means to investigate the nature of HCoV-MERS by reverse genetics. An HCoV-MERS infectious cDNA clone system was constructed to use for reverse genetics by homologous recombination of bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs). This system should aid in answering remaining questions of coronavirus genetics and evolution as well as expedite the development of vaccines and prophylactic treatments for HCoV-MERS.