Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Thursday, April 17, 2003

China Develops Fast SARS Detection Technology

Experts said SARS in China has been dependent largely on clinical diagnosis such as high fever, hacking cough and the decrease of leukocyte. A simple serum test in less than 2 hours can now produce results.


China Develops Fast SARS Detection Technology
Chinese scientists announced Wednesday they have developed the technology for rapid detection of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) after successfully separating the new type of coronavirus, which is believed to be the cause of SARS.

According to experts with the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Medical Institute, the current diagnosis of SARS mainly relies on clinical symptoms, which includes high fever, aches, a dry cough and shortness of breath.

The lack of an objective lab criterion has increased the difficulty of treating and preventing the disease and may cause a misdiagnosis by covering patients with similar symptoms, said the experts.

"We have already worked out the test reagent for diagnosing atypical pneumonia," said Zhu Qingyu, a researcher with the Institute. Zhu added the test reagent was ready for the clinical use in hospitals.

China Develops Fast SARS Detection Technology
Diagnostic tests of the sera samples from patients with suspected severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) are now being conducted at Zhu's institute.

The new technology allows doctors to quickly identify the antibody in the blood serum of patients by using the pathogen of the new type of coronavirus.

Of the 42 patients receiving the serum test, 40 were positive. 30 healthy people without symptoms were tested and all came through with negative results from the test. The test has been proclaimed 95 percent accurate.

But production of the test reagent has only been carried out under strict conditions in the laboratories owing to the highly toxic nature of its composition of the cultured novel coronavirus pathogen. It is still in short supply and there is only enough for use in Beijing currently.

On Monday, a German biotechnology firm said it had started distributing test kits developed with a tropical medicine institute. It has offered the kits to laboratories free of charge.

However, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Iain Simpson said in Geneva on Tuesday that tests being marketed for swift diagnosis of SARS still required evaluation.

More progress is needed to assist China's fight against an epidemic that had claimed the lives of 64 people on the Chinese mainland by Tuesday.

The institute at the Academy of Military Medical Sciences on Monday completed the decoding of the genetic sequence of the coronavirus which is suspected of being the cause of SARS.

Research results reveal it has some 30,000 base pairs and is a new type of coronavirus.

The latest development is based on the successful isolation of the coronavirus from SARS tissue samples on March 21 and the establishment of animal models. Experts have studied the coronavirus in the samples of livers, lungs, the epithelial cells in pharnyxes and the lymph nodes of SARS patients for genome sequencing.

US and Canadian scientists have also produced maps of the genome of the virus respectively, with a negligible difference of 10 base pairs out of a total of 29,000 base pairs.

The completion of the decoding is believed to have laid a solid foundation for tracking the origin of the coronavirus as well as producing the diagnostic reagent, vaccines and medicines for treating SARS.

HKU Completes Genetic Sequencing of Coronavirus
The University of Hong Kong announced Thursday that it has completed the genetic sequencing of coronavirus that may have a role in causing the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Lennon Tsang, spokesman for the Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, told Xinhua that his university became the world's third institution that completed the genetic sequencing of coronavirus after Canada's Michael Smith Gerome Science Center and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

He said the research finding could help doctors here find more effective medicine for the treatment of SARS patients.

The University of Hong Kong was the first in the world to discover on March 22 that the coronavirus might have caused SARS.

Tsang said researchers of his university will use the sequencing result to speed up the development of the second and third generations of DNA testing methods to find out people infected with the virus.

He said the first generation test method, applied in several Hong Kong hospitals as of March 27, has an effective rate of 60 percent to 70 percent while the second and third generation test methods will surely be more accurate.

Tsang said research finding indicated that SARS coronavirus may come from animals as the genes of SARS virus have similarities with that of pigs, cows and rats, though researchers here are still not sure what animals have caused the disease.

Researchers from the University of Hong Kong have published their research findings in well-known medical journals such as Lancet and New England Magazine of Medicine on April 8 and March 31, respectively.

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