Chinese scientists have shown that the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) may be able to spread more easily — and in more ways — than previously thought.
Research carried out at Guangzhou's First Military Medical University suggests that SARS might transfer from person to person via urine, faeces and even sweat — and not just by coughs and sneezes.
"As a result, we recommend new infection control measures which include getting patients to wear gloves, disposable gowns, and eye protection, in addition to [face] masks, and to avoid kissing or touching other people," says lead researcher Yanqing Ding.
Using a marker that binds to the SARS virus, Ding's team found the virus in many tissues — including the small intestine, kidney, lungs, stomach and sweat glands — extracted from three patients killed by the disease. Their results are reported in the July 2004 issue of the Journal of Pathology.
The presence of SARS virus in kidneys and the intestinal tract suggest that urine and faeces may play a role in transmitting the disease — and that SARS could also be spread by contaminated sewage or food.
The findings follow a new outbreak of SARS in China in which five people have been infected and one has died. The outbreak has been traced to Beijing's National Institute of Virology, which was studying the SARS virus. In 2003, the syndrome killed nearly 800 people, mostly in Southeast Asia.