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Thu, 27.03.2003
pte20030327022 Health/Medicine, Science/Technology
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Coronavirus identified as cause of SARS
Paramyxovirus family out of the question

Frankfurt/ Hamburg (pte022/27.03.2003/11:12) - Virologists at the Bernhard Nocht Institute in Hamburg and the University of Frankfurt have found a virus from the coronavirus group in SARS-infected (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) patients being treated in Frankfurt. In parallel research, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has also been able to detect coronavirus gene sections in Asian SARS patients.

Instead of belonging to the paramyxovirus family, as believed until recently, the cause of the highly contagious respiratory illness has now been identified as an unrecorded coronavirus.

After cultivating and identifying the virus in their laboratory, researchers used a special test procedure to detect the same virus in the two patients being treated in Frankfurt. The virus was found in a throat culture taken from the female patient a day before she came down with a fever and in fluid from the male patient's lungs. The so-called metapneumovirus of the paramyxovirus family was not found in the Frankfurt samples.

The Bernhard-Nocht Institute used its own testing procedure for the molecular identification of the virus - a procedure especially useful in detecting new viral diseases. They placed so-called genetic "bait" in the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to detect special regions in the polymerase genes of several virus families. Once the gene section was found, its exact sequence could be deciphered. The SARS polymerase gene sequence was then compared with databank entries and conclusively identified as a coronavirus.

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