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The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) has been a focus of international attention since its identification in 2012. Epidemiologically it is characterized by sporadic community cases, which are amplified by hospital-based outbreaks. Healthcare facilities in 27 countries from most continents have experienced imported cases, with the most significant outbreak involving 186 cases in Korea. The mortality internationally is 36% and guidance for clinical management has yet to be developed. Most facilities and healthcare providers outside of the Middle East receiving patients have no or little experience in the clinical management of MERS. When a case does occur there is likely little time for a critical appraisal of the literature and putative pharmacological options. We identified published literature on the management of both MERS-CoV and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) through searches of PubMed and WHO and the US CDC websites up to 30 April 2016. A total of 101 publications were retrieved for critical appraisal. Most published literature on therapeutics for MERS are in vitro experiments, animal studies and case reports. Current treatment options for MERS can be categorized as: immunotherapy with virus-specific antibodies in convalescent plasma; polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies produced in vitro or in genetically modified animals; and antiviral agents. The use of any therapeutics in MERS-CoV remains investigational. The therapeutic agents with potential benefits and warranting further investigation include convalescent plasma, interferon-β/ribavirin combination therapy and lopinavir. Corticosteroids, ribavirin monotherapy and mycophenolic acid likely have toxicities that exceed potential benefits.

Original publication




Journal article


The Journal of antimicrobial chemotherapy

Publication Date





3340 - 3350


Division of Infectious Diseases, University Medicine Cluster, National University Health System, Singapore.


Humans, Coronavirus Infections, Interferon-beta, Ribavirin, Immunologic Factors, Antibodies, Viral, Antiviral Agents, Lopinavir, Global Health