Monday, March 24, 2003

New Scientist -- Breakthrough in fight against super-pneumonia

Doctors in Hong Kong have developed a simple diagnostic test for the virus responsible for the global outbreak of "super-pneumonia". The test, validated on eight patients so far, was made possible after scientists succeeded in growing the virus in the laboratory.

That breakthrough will also be crucial in helping researchers precisely identify the pathogen, as well as assess potential drug treatments.

The disease, dubbed Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), has now infected almost 400 people in 14 countries, and killed 17. An earlier outbreak of severe pneumonia struck more than 300 people in the Guangdong province of southern China, causing six deaths. The new diagnostic test will assist the World Health Organization teams still investigating whether the same virus is responsible for both outbreaks.

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