Temporal dynamics of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in the Arabian Peninsula, 2012-2017

M. A. Alkhamis, A. Fernández-Fontelo, K. Vanderwaal, S. Abuhadida, P. Puig, A. Alba-Casals

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) remains a notable disease and poses a significant threat to global public health. The Arabian Peninsula is considered a major global epicentre for the disease and the virus has crossed regional and continental boundaries since 2012. In this study, we focused on exploring the temporal dynamics of MERS-CoV in human populations in the Arabian Peninsula between 2012 and 2017, using publicly available data on case counts and combining two analytical methods. Disease progression was assessed by quantifying the time-dependent reproductive number (TD-Rs), while case series temporal pattern was modelled using the AutoRegressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA). We accounted for geographical variability between three major affected regions in Saudi Arabia including Eastern Province, Riyadh and Makkah. In Saudi Arabia, the epidemic size was large with TD-Rs >1, indicating significant spread until 2017. In both Makkah and Riyadh regions, the epidemic progression reached its peak in April 2014 (TD-Rs > 7), during the highest incidence period of MERS-CoV cases. In Eastern Province, one unique super-spreading event (TD-R > 10) was identified in May 2013, which comprised of the most notable cases of human-to-human transmission. Best-fitting ARIMA model inferred statistically significant biannual seasonality in Riyadh region, a region characterised by heavy seasonal camel-related activities. However, no statistical evidence of seasonality was identified in Eastern Province and Makkah. Instead, both areas were marked by an endemic pattern of cases with sporadic outbreaks. Our study suggested new insights into the epidemiology of the virus, including inferences about epidemic progression and evidence for seasonality. Despite the inherent limitations of the available data, our conclusions provide further guidance to currently implement risk-based surveillance in high-risk populations and, subsequently, improve related interventions strategies against the epidemic at country and regional levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere21
JournalEpidemiology and infection
Early online dateOct 8 2018
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Cambridge University Press.


  • ARIMA modelling
  • MERS-CoV
  • seasonality
  • surveillance
  • time-dependent reproductive number

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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