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A new study has confirmed beyond reasonable doubt that severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is caused solely by the new SARS-associated coronavirus (SCV) and not by other suspected pathogens that have been obtained from patients.

Scientists normally use six criteria to establish whether or not a virus is the cause of a disease, which include isolating the virus from those with the disease. Until now, only three of these criteria had been fulfilled for SCV. But in this week's issue of  Nature Albert Osterhaus of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and colleagues provide evidence to clinch the final three.

The researchers infected macaque monkeys with the human coronavirus, and demonstrated that the sick animals had formed an immune response against that virus.

This confirmation of the single cause of SARS should help to speed the development of diagnostic tests, antiviral therapies and vaccines. However, the researchers point out that other respiratory pathogens may worsen symptoms in some SARS patients.

Link to Nature research paper

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