Breakthrough made in research of SARS virus

Chinese and American scientists have joined hands in achieving a breakthrough in the research of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus, said a press release Friday from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) joined over 50 scientists from China's mainland and the United States to form the Chinese SARS Molecular Epidemiology Consortium to study the complete evolutionary history of the SARS-coronavirusduring last year's SARS epidemic. The research represents the mostextensive molecular epidemiological study of the SARS-coronavirus to date.

A total of 63 SARS-coronavirus genomic sequences isolated from SARS patients infected at various time points were analyzed.

The analysis revealed that the SARS-coronavirus was mutating continuously throughout the epidemic. The estimated mutation rate of the virus, however, is one-third that of the virus responsible for the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

Moreover, the research found out that the mutation rate of the virus was most rapid during the early part of the epidemic betweenthe time of the first emergence of SARS to the first major outbreak in Guangdong Province in China's mainland. Therefore, themutation rate slowed gradually.

Researchers also found out that most of the human SARS-coronavirus sequences differ from the sequences of the coronavirusisolated from Himalayan palm civets by the lack of 29 units of genetic code in one region of the virus.

Researchers at the CUHK noted that the complete evolutionary map of the SARS-coronavirus provides a blueprint for the prediction of the future sequence of events should SARS re-emerge.

Source: Xinhua

People's Daily Online ---