South Korea begins plasma treatment trial for Mers

Bag of blood Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Antibodies from the blood of survivors will be used as a treatment

South Korea is to begin trials of an experimental plasma treatment for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers) which has now killed 19 people.

The treatment - which has already proved useful for tackling other deadly diseases, including Ebola - uses blood from patients who have successfully fought off the same infection.

To date, more than 150 people in the country have been infected with Mers.

Also on Tuesday, Germany reported its first death from the disease.

The 65-year-old man died in a clinic in the north-western city of Osnabruck, German media reports say.

The South Korean health ministry said two hospitals would begin the plasma treatment trials.

The outbreak in South Korea originated from a 68-year-old man who had travelled to the Middle East. He was diagnosed as the country's first Mers patient last month.

Four new cases were reported there on Tuesday, as well as three deaths.

Officials emphasise that the number of new cases is decreasing, but there is still widespread fear and misinformation.

Health workers are spraying disinfectant inside karaoke rooms and other businesses, and teachers are sprinkling salt on school grounds in a misplaced attempt to protect themselves as many schools reopen this week.

There is currently no cure or vaccine that can protect people from Mers.

The disease is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered China's deadly 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) and is most likely spread by coughs and sneezes.

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Media captionMers virus explained in 60 seconds

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers)

  • Mers is caused by a coronavirus, a type of virus which includes the common cold and Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome).
  • First cases emerged in the Middle East in 2012, and the first death in Saudi Arabia in June that year.
  • It is not known for certain how it is transmitted. It is possible the virus is spread in droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • Patients have a fever, cough and breathing difficulties, but Mers can also cause pneumonia and kidney failure.
  • Approximately 36% of reported patients with Mers have died - there is no vaccine or specific treatment.

Mers: The new coronavirus explained

How South Korea is coping with outbreak

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