Up close and personal with SARS

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For a virus hunter, Hong Kong in the spring of 2003 was the right place and the right time. And Sri Lankan-born virologist Malik Peiris proved to be the right person.

Peiris and his team at the University of Hong Kong were the first to isolate the agent causing severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), early in the week of 17 March. And the Hong Kong lab was one of three groups that several days later — and within hours of each other — identified the culprit as a new coronavirus.

In this article Dennis Normile describes how Peiris came to be “hooked” on viruses — particularly those at the interface between animals and humans — and traces the series of events that led to the identification of the SARS virus.

Link to full Science feature article

Reference: Science 300, 886 (2003)