The mystery surrounding the SARS virus deepens. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho raises further questions on whether genetic engineering could have contributed to creating it.
The SARS epidemic started in the weeks that the ‘allied forces’ were waging war on Iraq to hunt down Saddam Hussein and his still elusive ‘weapons of mass destruction’.
SARS – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – is a completely new infectious disease spread by human contact. By 20 June 2003, World Health Organisation figures registered 8461 cases in 31 countries worldwide and 804 deaths. The overall death rate is nearly 10% and could be 20% or higher.
Although there are signs that the disease is under control, there are also fears that it may return.
The mystery of the SARS virus
The World Health Organisation, which played the key role in coordinating the research of a dozen laboratories, formally announced on 16 April that a new pathogen, a member of the coronavirus family never before seen in humans, is the cause of SARS, though lingering doubt has remained. The virus cannot be identified all patients diagnosed with SARS, and it can only be isolated from cultured green monkey kidney cells.
Known coronaviruses are placed in three groups based on similarities in their genomes. Group 1 contains the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), porcine transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV), canine coronavirus (CCV), feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV) and human coronavirus 229E (HuCV229E); Group 2 contains the avian infectious bronchitis virus (AIBV) and turkey coronavirus; while Group 3 contains the murine hepatitis virus (MHV) bovine coronavirus (BCV), human coronavirus (HuOC43) and others.