SARS-Like Virus Traced to Egyptian Tomb Bat
Feces pellet provides perfect match for mystery virus
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2013 2:15 AM CDT
This provided by EcoHealth Alliance shows a taphozous perforatus bat, also known as an Egyptian tomb bat.   (AP Photo/EcoHealth Alliance via The Canadian Press, Jonathan H. Epstein)

(Newser) – Researchers scrambling to find the source of the deadly MERS virus have pinpointed an animal culprit—but they're still not sure how it has been passed to humans. An exact match for the virus that has sickened 96 people in the Middle East, killing almost half of them, was found in a fecal pellet from an Egyptian tomb bat near the home of one of the first known victims in Saudi Arabia, the New York Times reports.

This is the first time the virus has been found in an animal, but since bats—especially this species, which roosts in abandoned buildings—rarely come into contact with people, researchers believe it may infect other animals, LiveScience notes. Camels are also suspected to be a source of infection, but samples from the Saudi victim's four pet camels haven't been analyzed in the US lab that tested the bat pellet yet because an Agriculture Department laboratory has to declare them free of foot-and-mouth disease first.