SARS: DETECTION OF A CORONAVIRUS BY THE INSTITUT PASTEUR
"A coronavirus was detected in samples taken from patients in Hanoï, and suffering from the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome" (SARS), confirmed Pr Sylvie van der Werf*, of Institut Pasteur.
* Sylvie van der Werf is Head of the Molecular genetics of Respiratory viruses unit and Director of the WHO collaborating centre on influenza viruses and other respiratory viruses, also a National Reference Centre.
In the context of the international fight against the SARS epidemic which began in Asia several weeks ago, the team of Sylvie van der Werf was called upon by the World Health Organisation and by the French Direction Générale de la Santé (DGS - Division of Health). One of the virologists of the laboratory, Dr Jean-Claude Manuguerra, is part of the team sent by the DGS to Hanoï. The Institut Pasteur in Paris was asked to analyse samples from Hanoï and samples of suspected cases of SARS from south-east Asia arriving on French territory.
Several dozen samples were analysed. Following detection of a coronavirus by other laboratories in the world, the team of Sylvie van der Werf developed an advanced detection test. This test was applied to 13 patients, 8 of which were found to have the virus. The technique developed could become a possible approach for future diagnosis. This technique must be validated with a larger number of cases. This will occur in coming days.
The laboratory thus confirms the hypothesis of the coronavirus and will also work on characterising what appears as a "new" coronavirus. Only precise identification of this virus will allow us to find the origin of the epidemic: human origin, animal origin (coronaviruses mainly exist in pigs and poultry)?
Other hypotheses have not however been put aside, other pathogens could be co-factors in SARS: tests for paramyxoviridae and chlamydiae in particular continue.
Human coronavirus is the second cause of colds after the rhinovirus, but may often be associated in pneumonia and pleural conditions. In addition, certain coronaviruses are responsible for diarrhoea and gastroenteritis. They are therefore either of pulmonary or enteric tropism. Coronaviruses owe their name to the halo (crown) formed by the viral envelope.
Currently known coronaviruses
of pulmonary tropism are transmitted by aerosol inhalation, respiratory transmission
from one individual to another, or indirectly via objects carrying pathogens.
Transmission of the virus is possible during the acute phase of the disease
or during the period of convalescence.
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