SARS RESEARCH AT THE INSTITUT PASTEUR
One year after first surfacing in China, the SARS virus could strike again. The Institut Pasteur, one of the world leaders in the fight against infectious diseases, has further developed its research programmes by pooling the skills of several of its teams, by entering collaborative ventures with pharmaceutical companies and by establishing a partnership with China.
In reality, even though the initial epidemic has been brought under control, the mechanisms involved in the emergence of the virus remain unclear. The virus may well re-emerge, namely from a possible animal reservoir, which means that we must remain extremely vigilant.
With this possibility in mind, high-performance diagnostics tools and a vaccine must be developed in order to quickly and effectively contain the spread of this virus.
Bio-Rad and the Institut
Pasteur have set up a collaborative programme to develop easy-to-use SARS diagnostics
tests that can be utilised not only by hospital laboratories, but also by reference
centres located in developing countries.
GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals (GSK Bio) and the Institut Pasteur have joined forces to perfect a SARS vaccine (see press release : GSK and the Institut Pasteur enter in collaboration to find a SARS vaccine).
In addition, an animal model of SARS is currently being developed.
Another of the Institut Pasteur's aims is to identify a possible animal reservoir of the SARS virus. Discovering this reservoir is essential because it will allow preventive measures to be taken in order to avoid the occurrence of new epidemics. To meet this aim, a Franco-Chinese network has just been created, bringing together French and Chinese epidemiologists, virologists, immunologists, zoologists and veterinarians. This network is funded by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology.
Finally, the University
of Hong Kong - Pasteur Research Centre has set up a research programme that
aims to clarify the molecular and cellular mechanisms through which the SARS
virus infects its hosts and triggers the disease. Understanding the early stages
of the virus life cycle is crucial to finding novel means to fight SARS, such
as vaccination strategies and the development of diagnostics tools and entry-inhibiting
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