The identity of the agent that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) has been confirmed. A Brief Communication in this week's Nature (p. 240) verifies that the disease is caused solely by the new SARS-associated coronavirus (SCV) and not by other suspects that have been isolated from patients.
Six criteria need to be satisfied in order to establish a virus as the cause of a disease. Known as Koch's postulates, until now only three of these have been fulfilled for SCV. Now Albert D. M. E. Osterhaus of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and colleagues provide evidence to clinch the last remaining three. They were able to infect macaques (Macaca fascicularis) with the human coronavirus, re-isolate the pathogen from the sick animals, and demonstrate that the animals had mounted an immune response against the virus.
This confirmation will help to speed the development of diagnostic tests, antiviral therapies and vaccines. The authors do not exclude the possibility that other respiratory pathogens may worsen symptoms in some SARS patients.
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