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pte20030324037 Health/Medicine, Science/Technology
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Scientists devise first SARS diagnostic test
"Spectacular achievement", but more research needed

Hong Kong (pte037/24.03.2003/14:41) - Researchers at the University of Hong Kong say they have developed a first blood test for the virus causing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). However according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the test still requires further development before it can be used - doctors are far from a vaccine or even cure for SARS.

World Health Organization (WHO) virologist Klaus Stöhr, who coordinates international laboratory research on SARS, has nevertheless called the initial diagnostic test a "spectacular achievement", able to separate persons infected with SARS from non-carriers of the virus.

Hospitals and health institutions in Hong Kong are rapidly filling with people who believe they may be infected with the virus, resulting in staffing problems and potentially taking care away from those most at risk.

With the new test, laboratories could find specific antibodies in the blood of infected patients. Test results have proved consistent in eight cases of known infection with SARS, as confirmed in an official statement by the WHO .

As scientists work around the clock to find out more about this disease, competition among researchers has been put on hold. "They are practically working shoulder to shoulder and in less than a week they have produced results that would normally take months," said Stöhr.

The exact identity of the disease remains unknown, but Hong Kong researchers have been able to classify the virus in the paramyxoviridae family (see newsfox: ).

According to the WHO there are currently 386 cases of SARS in 15 countries, most of them occurring in Hong Kong where the number of cases climbed 25 per cent to 247 since Friday.

Submitter: pressetext.europe
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