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Russian Scientist: SARS Virus Was Created In A Weapons Lab
ACADEMICIAN KOLESNIKOV: THE SARS VIRUS OF ATYPICAL PNEUMONIA HAS BEEN CREATED ARTIFICIALLY
IRKUTSK, April 10, 2003.
RIA Novosti correspondent Alexander Batalin
The virus of atypical pneumonia (SARS) has been created artificially, possibly as a bacteriological weapon, believes Sergei Kolesnikov, Academician of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences.
He expressed this opinion at a news conference in Irkutsk (Siberia) on Thursday.
According to him, the virus of atypical pneumonia is a synthesis of two viruses (of measles and infectious parotiditis or mumps), the natural compound of which is impossible. This can be done only in a laboratory, the academician is convinced. He also said that in creating bacteriological weapons a protective anti-viral vaccine is, as a rule, worked out at the same time. Therefore, the scientist believes, a medicine for atypical pneumonia may soon appear. He does not exclude that the spread of the virus could have begun accidentally, as a result of "an unsanctioned leakage" from a laboratory.
Source: Russian Information Agency: Novosti
Scientists Identify Virus Behind Deadly SARS 4/10/2003 (Reuters)
Scientists said on Thursday they had identified the virus behind the deadly respiratory illness spreading worldwide and proposed naming it after a doctor who first identified the disease and later became a victim.
The new coronavirus, a relative of one of the many viruses that cause the common cold, is, as suspected, new to humans, two research teams reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The finding means that doctors can now concentrate on developing a simple test for the virus that will tell them right away whether a patient has Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, has three such tests but says they are not suitable for everyday use.
In one of the studies reported on Thursday, the CDC's Dr. Larry Anderson and colleagues tested samples from patients in six countries with SARS..
"Nineteen patients with SARS have been identified as infected with the new coronavirus. All have direct or indirect links to the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong and Guangdong province, China," the researchers said in their report released early by the journal.
"A coronavirus with identical (genetic) sequences has also been detected in a patient with SARS in Canada."
They said the virus should be named after Dr. Carlo Urbani, the World Health Organization doctor who died of SARS last month after treating one of the first patients infected with the virus in Vietnam.
"Because of the death of Dr. Carlo Urbani during the investigation of the initial SARS epidemic, we propose that the virus be named Urbani SARS-associated coronavirus," they wrote.
SARS is marked by a high fever, dry cough and other flu-like symptoms but it progresses to pneumonia. Some patients must be put on respirators to help their lungs function.
About four percent of patients with SARS die.
SARS, which was spread around the world by travelers, has killed an estimated 110 people and infected more than 3,000. But authorities in the United States and other countries believe they have the infection under control.
In China, Hong Kong and Singapore, areas hardest hit by the virus, the picture is less clear.
The CDC, World Health Organization and doctors in affected areas, eager to find the root of the mystery disease, tested for the usual suspects, such as influenza and other known bacterial and viral causes of pneumonia, which turned out negative.
At first a virus related to measles, mumps and some other more exotic diseases emerged as the cause of SARS, but scientists later ruled that out.
It is possible that the virus, called a paramyxovirus, or other microbes may help make patients more ill or make them more likely to transmit SARS, Anderson's team said.
The lung damage seen in patients who died of SARS looks more like the damage done by measles, respiratory syncytial virus and some other diseases, and not like the damage done by other coronaviruses, they said.
It is possible the damage is caused by the body's immune response. When the immune system attacks a bacterial or viral infection, it sometimes kills healthy cells along with the microbes.
The CDC team is working to sequence the DNA of the virus, which will give a better idea of what it is and where it originates. But it does not look like anything they have seen before in animals or people.
"Preliminary studies suggest that this virus may never before have infected the US population," they wrote.
No one they have tested who does not have SARS has antibodies to the virus, suggesting it is new and that no one has been exposed to it before.
"Certainly, it has not circulated widely in humans," they wrote. "Presumably, this virus originated in animals and mutated or recombined in a fashion that permitted it to infect, cause disease, and pass from person to person."
In a second study Dr. Christian Drosten of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg and colleagues across Germany, France and the Netherlands also pointed to coronavirus.
They tested samples from 18 SARS patients in Hanoi and 21 healthy people who had been in contact with the patients.
All of the patients with severe SARS had the virus, while none of the healthy people had it. Of those with suspected SARS, the virus could be found in 23 percent.
new type, researchers say
Friday, April 11, 2003 at 16:00 JST
WASHINGTON -- The virus suspected of causing severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which has spread mainly in Asia, is a new type of virus that has not been previously reported, according to the latest research published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday.
The virus has a very different genetic make up from known coronaviruses, according to an article published in the leading medical journal.
"A novel coronavirus was identified in patients with SARS...Genetic characterization indicated the virus is only distantly related to known coronaviruses," said the article written by researchers from institutes such as Germany's Benhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine and France's Pasteur Institute.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta also said the same day that the virus suspected of causing SARS is a new type.
The CDC said it has found the almost the same genetic characterization in 12 samples obtained from different locations, including China, Vietnam and Canada.
It is likely that the virus mutated and was passed from animals to humans, becoming more virulent and spreading rapidly, the CDC said.
A second article in the New England Journal of Medicine, published by another team of international researchers, suggested naming the virus Urbani SARS-associated coronavirus, after Dr Carolo Urbani.
Urbani, an Italian doctor with the World Health Organization who first identified the SARS outbreak, died late March in a Bangkok hospital from the deadly illness. (Kyodo News)
Scientists confident of SARS link
Evidence of new virus found in stool samples, journal report says
By Julie Bell
Originally published April 11, 2003
Scientists working to identify the cause of a mysterious respiratory illness that has killed 111 people worldwide are now almost certain that it is associated with a new kind of coronavirus, a family of viruses also responsible for the common cold.
One of two groups of scientists whose findings were published online yesterday in separate New England Journal of Medicine articles also said they had found genetic evidence of the virus in some victims' stool samples.
The finding lends support to a previously advanced theory that the virus might spread via cockroaches that have had contact with sewage, said Dr. Peter B. Jahrling, a U.S. Army virologist whose Fort Detrick laboratory is working to find drugs that might be effective against the infection.
"It does give you some insight into potential transmission," Jahrling said. "If it's in stools, then it's in sewage. If it's in sewage, then you need to worry about how it's handled."
SARS is characterized by a fever over 100 degrees, a cough and in the most serious cases, pneumonia. It is thought primarily to be spread when infected people cough tiny droplets containing the virus into the air. The theory about sewage emerged when the virus appeared to spread from floor to floor to more than 250 people in the Amoy Gardens apartment building in Hong Kong.
While international groups of scientists led by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, Germany, linked the disease to the coronavirus, Julie L. Gerberding, the CDC's director, said it was still too early to draw a final conclusion about the cause of severe acute respiratory syndrome.
"We are increasingly confident we are dealing with a new coronavirus," she said. But she added, "While we've seen evidence of the virus and we've seen evidence of pneumonia, we haven't seen them both in the same tissue."
Gerberding also said researchers have no evidence that feces is playing a role in transmission. Finding genetic evidence of the virus in stool samples is not the same as saying the virus was present in them, she told reporters yesterday on a conference call.
As of yesterday, SARS was suspected of sickening 166 people in 30 U.S. states, none of whom have died. Nearly all got sick after traveling in Asian countries where most of the cases have occurred. A CDC publication released yesterday said nine people in the United States believed to have the illness got it through household contact with an infected person, while three of the U.S. cases were health care workers who had treated people with SARS.
But Gerberding said yesterday that health officials are investigating to determine whether the virus may have spread for the first time in a workplace in the United States. In Florida, health investigators discovered a co-worker of a suspected SARS patient who had a respiratory illness and also placed that person on the list of suspected SARS cases.
"It is far too early to know if any of these workers have SARS," Gerberding said. But just in case, she said the CDC will post new guidance regarding SARS patients for schools and the workplace. "We are asking people to contact their clinician if they have any kind of unusual illness," she said.
The Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases laboratory in Frederick, where Jahrling is the top virologist, was in its first week of screening drugs against the virus. But Jahrling said the lab already had concluded that ribavirin, an anti-viral some doctors have been prescribing to people with SARS, doesn't work - at least not against the strain of coronavirus the lab has been using.
The laboratory also plans to test that drug and up to 2,000 others against virus isolated from three SARS patients in Canada, he said. The drug interferon is next on the list. In the laboratory, the virus grows freely in cells that don't contain interferon, leading Jahrling to say, "We have good reason to think interferon might work."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Copyright c 2003, The Baltimore Sun
●Econnect India Ltd
China conducts animal tests to determine Sars source
Beijing, Apr 11: China, worst-hit by Sars epidemic, has begun animal experiments in an effort to determine the source of the killer disease that has claimed over 100 lives world-wide, the state media reported today.
After conducting case studies, Chinese scientists have 'strong evidence' to prove that it is a great possibility that Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) patients are attacked by a Chlamydia agent or a corolla-virus-like agent, or even co-infected by the two, the chief expert of the Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention, Hong Tao said.
Chinese experts are carrying out experiments on animals to verify the conclusion, Hong claimed.
A top epidemiologist was quoted by media reports as saying today that seven new cases of Sars has been detected in Southern Guangdong Province. It brings the number of cases in the province to 1,220 and the number countrywide to 1,297.
Official statistics show that China has reported 55 Sars-related deaths and 1,290 cases. The Chinese capital Beijing has reported 22 cases with four deaths.
Meanwhile, Beijing municipal authorities have stepped up efforts to prevent Sars from spreading in the sprawling city of over 12 million people with city officials pledging to offer free medical treatment to Sars patients who could not afford the expenses.
"Beijing will provide free treatment for Sars patients who cannot afford medical fees," the deputy director of the Beijing municipal health bureau, Gao Jiyong said.
Posted 4/10/2003 8:08 PM Updated 4/10/2003 8:31 PM
U.S. strain of SARS much milder, data show
By Steve Sternberg, USA TODAY
American-style SARS appears be a weaker cousin of the devastating pneumonia-like illness that has taken root in Canada and Asia, statistics out Thursday suggest.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, is so much milder in the United States than abroad that Florida epidemiologist Steven Wiersma says some experts cautiously joke about renaming the U.S. version "MARS," for mild acute respiratory syndrome. "The cases we have seen in Florida have been of mild acute respiratory syndrome," Wiersma says.
The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics reflect this. Of 166 people with suspected SARS in the USA, most have had normal chest X-rays. Only 33 have developed pneumonia or respiratory distress. Only four of 60 patients who needed hospitalization were still admitted Wednesday. Only one person has needed mechanical assistance breathing, and no one has died, says Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC.
Canada, in contrast, reports 253 suspected cases and 10 deaths. Worldwide, 111 of the 2,781 SARS victims have died. Hundreds have developed pneumonia, and people in need of mechanical ventilation have filled intensive-care units in Hong Kong and Hanoi.
Health authorities are baffled at the apparent difference in the severity of a disease caused by the same virus in different countries. "We can't explain it," says John Jernigan, the CDC expert who is monitoring patient care in the USA. "We're actively investigating possible reasons for that."
One possible explanation is that the case definition used in the United States is extremely broad, linking a temperature and flu-like symptoms with foreign travel in affected areas. "It's quite possible that people can meet the case definition for SARS and not be related to the outbreak at all," Jernigan says. Another, he says, is that the broad definition, coupled with efforts to educate travelers who may have been exposed to SARS abroad, may prompt people to get treatment earlier than elsewhere.
In other developments:
●The CDC has developed an educational video about SARS to be shown on international flights, Gerberding says.
●Singapore's government said it would quarantine new workers from SARS-afflicted regions for 10 days. People who are quarantined will be monitored with Web cameras and an electronic wristband that sounds an alarm if they leave home.
SARS animal link backed
By Leigh Dayton, Glenda Korporaal and Catherine Armitage
IN work hailed as remarkable and unprecedented, Hong Kong scientists have published the first hard evidence that SARS is caused by a novel coronavirus that jumped from animals to people.
"This is very important evidence," said medical virologist Dominic Dwyer of the Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research at Sydney's Westmead Hospital.
According to Dr Dwyer, the new evidence will speed up the development of fast and accurate diagnostic tests, proven treatments and vaccines for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
Coronaviruses cause common colds and occasionally pneumonia in people. But they trigger severe illnesses in animals.
They have been found in samples from some patients with the deadly respiratory virus, but until now there has been no evidence they are widespread in people with SARS.
In less than two months the team, led by professors Malik Peiris and K.Y. Yuen of Hong Kong University, also nailed down key symptoms and produced new guidelines on treating the deadly respiratory disease which has hit 2671 people worldwide and killed 103.
The Hong Kong research was considered so significant the prestigious medical journal The Lancet published it online late Tuesday night and has made it freely available at www.thelancet.com/.
Other viruses, like human-metapneumovirus, may still act as "opportunistic secondary invaders" which worsen the symptoms of SARS, the Hong Kong team reported.
At Hong Kong's Chinese University, however, researchers have not found a high incidence of the coronavirus among its SARS patients.
"We have had metapneumovirus in a higher number of patients," said Professor Peter Cameron.
Professor Peiris claimed the Chinese University group had tested patients from fewer "clusters" of linked cases.
In contrast, his team investigated 50 patients from five clusters - using chest X-rays and blood and molecular tests - and compared the results to a control group of people without SARS symptoms.
Forty-five of the 50 people, aged from 23 to 74, had the coronavirus, but none of the control group.
Major symptoms shared by SARS patients included high fever, muscle pain and a dry cough. All had serious respiratory illness which was not obvious without X-rays.
As SARS spread to a second Hong Kong housing block yesterday, infecting 30 people, Beijing officials were condemned by their own health staff for releasing false SARS statistics.
Australia's first possible case of SARS, a British tourist, was yesterday cleared of having the disease.