China Makes Major Breakthrough in Research on SARS Virus Source

The Shenzhen Center for Disease Prevention and Control and Hong Kong University have achieved major breakthrough in their joint research on SARS virus source. The researchers discovered that the SARS virus found in the body of the wild animal civet cat and the raccoon dog is entirely the same as that found in human body.

Scientists have detected four isolates of a SARS-like coronavirus through a PT-PCR (reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction) diagnostic test -- which allows detection of the distinctive genetic information for SARS -- from six Himalayan palm civets and a raccoon they took as samples from a market in Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong Province on May 8.

Guan Yi, a doctor at the University of Hong Kong's Department of Microbiology, said: "We have charted a complete genetic map of the SARS-like coronavirus detected in the Himalayan palm civet, which shares 99.8 percent of the genetic code of the human SARS coronavirus.''

According to the joint research by the University of Hong Kong and Shenzhen Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, there are only a minimal 80 differences in the 29,780 or so nuleotide and amino-acid substitutions between the coronavirus in humans and that in Himalayan palm civets, which are catlike mammals.

Yuen Kwok-yung, head of microbiology at the university, said animals kept for food should be raised, slaughtered and sold with careful monitoring to prevent more outbreaks of SARS in people.

By People's Daily Online



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