In the April issue of Nature Medicine, Ben Berkhout and colleagues report the discovery of a new coronavirus, a group of viruses that includes the culprit behind severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Coronaviruses -- named for their spiky, crown-like appearance -- were first identified in the 1960s. Before last year, when researchers identified the SARS virus, only two human coronaviruses had been characterized.
The researchers created a technique to identify a mystery virus that caused respiratory and eye inflammation in a seven-month-old child. The complete genetic sequence of the virus revealed it to be a new human coronavirus, which seems to be widespread in the population. Like other coronaviruses, the new virus causes the common cold, but the symptoms it causes are mild compared with SARS.
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