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16 April 2003
just look at the speed of scientific progress
If it can be done for SARS, why not for FMD?
Teviot Scientific, Edinburgh and Perthshire
Filed 6 April 2003
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a
potentially fatal respiratory infection. It is thought to have first
occurred in the Guangdong province of China in November 2002. A
doctor travelling from Guangdong spread the infection to Hong Kong.
This lead to an outbreak of cases around the world (1).
The causitive agent, a previously unidentified
virus, has now been shown to be a form of coronavirus (2,
A collaboration of 13 laboratories in 10 countries
made possible the identification of the virus in a remarkably short
perid of time (4). Several of
the collaborating laboratories have developed primers which are
freely available on the WHO website. This enables appropriately
specialised laboratories to make the primers themselves. Positive
RNA samples are also freely available for validation from the Bernhard-Nocht
Institute in Hamburg, Germany.
The availability of these primers has made it
possible to develop rapid diagnostic tests for the diagnosis of
SARS in its viraemic stage. Three weeks ago, on 26 March, the Bernhard-Nocht
Institute published on its website a preliminary RT-PCR Protocol
for the Coronavirus now known to cause SARS. Artus GmbH (5),
a German biotechnology company has since developed a ready-to-use
kit with built in quality control. The kit is being offerred to
all collaborating laboratories at no charge. Just how well the test
performs in the clinical field will be apparent shortly.
For further information on SARS, Land-Care recommends
the following page on the University of Leicester's Website: www-micro.msb.le.ac.uk/3035/Coronaviruses.html
Updates on SARS can be found on the WHO website
There would appear to be a striking contrast in
the speed with which science has been applied to SARS. We are still
painfully waiting for a comparable application of science to the
provision and use of rapid diagnostic tests for foot and mouth disease
- so essential for the control of any future outbreak (6).
1. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention. National Center for Infectious Diseases. Severe
Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
2. WHO. Communicable Disease Surveillance
and Response. Update 7 - SARS virus isolated, new diagnostic test
producing reliable results
3. Coronaviruses. University of
Leicester Department of Microbiology and Immunolgy.
4. WHO. Communicable Disease Surveillance
and Response (CSR). Update 31 - Coronavirus never before seen in
humans is the cause of SARS. Unprecedented collaboration identifies
new pathogen in record time, 16 April 2003.
5. Artus GmbH: http://www.artus-biotech2.de
6. Irvine, James (2003). Commission
proposes improved Directive to control outbreaks of foot-and-mouth
(Filed 11 February 2003, www.land-care.org.uk,