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The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the world free of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in early July. But despite ambitious plans to launch a global research effort and considerable work in China, the past five months have seen no progress in discovering the origins of the virus.

In this article, Martin Enserink and Dennis Normile reveal a number of factors behind the slowdown. The complexities of China’s research policy, difficulties inherent in international collaborations and understaffing at the WHO itself have all contributed.

Many researchers are worried: a return of the virus without full knowledge of its origins will make control that much more difficult. But some feel that progress will pick up only when the WHO receives the cash injection that will make its role in the research effort viable.

Link to full feature in Science

Reference: Science, 302, 766 (2003)

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