Coronaviruses evolve quickly and have a long history of shifting between animal species, leading scientists to explore the origin of MERS-CoV and how it infects people. While many other coronaviruses in nature are not known to infect people, SARS-CoV-2, MERS-CoV and the original SARS-CoV are notable for their ability to infect a variety of different species.
Research evidence suggests that all three coronaviruses originated in bats. SARS-CoV then spread from infected civets to people, while MERS-CoV spreads through infected dromedary camels to people. Scientists are trying to determine how SARS-CoV-2 spread to people. Epidemiological studies have shown that MERS-CoV can transmit between people who are in close contact, such as family members or patients being treated in clinical settings. Outbreaks have been closely linked to hospital settings.