SARS Genomes Unveiled
Genome News Network
By Kate Dalke
May 2, 2003
The origin of the SARS virus remains a mystery, but scientists have now published the genomes of two strains of the virus. The genome sequences confirm that the virus is a novel variety of coronavirus—a family of viruses that causes respiratory illness in humans and other animals.
SARS does not resemble known coronaviruses in chickens or pigs, but these domesticated animals are still “a good place to look” for similar viruses, said Steven Oberste of the US Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta during a recent news conference. “It’s also going to be important to look at a full spectrum of coronaviruses.”
The sequences are highly similar and are about 30,000 base pairs long. Two teams of scientists, from the United States and Canada, published the genomes online in Science.
The researchers were part of a collaborative effort coordinated by the World Health Organization in which scientists from around the world shared sequence and patient information.
The Canadian scientists sequenced a strain from a Toronto patient, while the US scientists sequenced the Urbani strain—taken from Carlo Urbani, the WHO doctor who first discovered the virus and later died of SARS.
The new sequences are also helping scientists develop more precise diagnostic tests for sever acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).