Researchers of coronaviruses discovered that camels are the source of one of the four common cold coronaviruses, "HCoV-229E­."

Camels were already known to be the source of the severe and often fatal Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus. Previous MERS studies led to the link between camels and HCoV-229E.

"In our MERS investigations we examined about 1,000 camels for coronaviruses and were surprised to find pathogens that are related to 'HCoV-229E', the human common cold virus, in almost six percent of the cases," Institute of Virology at the University of Bonn Professor Christian Drosten said in a report provided by the German Center for Infection Research to Science Daily.

Drosten and his research team analyzed bat, human and camel molecular genetics. Their findings demonstrated transmission of HCoV-229E from camels to humans.

Scientists know less about coronaviruses than they do about rhinoviruses. Studying HCoV-229E will hopefully lead to increased understanding about the potentially fatal, and pathologically strange, MERS virus.

A common cold epidemic is not feared in the way that a MERS epidemic is feared. In addition to being less dangerous, there is already widespread immunity to HCoV-229E in the human population.

Transmission of the current HCoV-229E virus enters human cells much more easily than the MERS virus. However, predecessors to the HCoV-229E virus show similar transmission abilities as the current MERS virus, causing concern that the MERS virus could adapt and begin to spread globally.

The MERS virus is not uncommon. An Abu Dhabi study tested camels at 39 farms and found that 3.7 per cent of camels were carriers of the MERS coronavirus, and 15 perfect of the farms had infected animals.

Research about the predecessors of HCoV-229E is significant for preventing a MERS epidemic. Resources are currently being focused at developing a MERS vaccine and testing it as soon as possible.