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The SARS epidemic has shown that when a disease threatens affluent countries, the response is fast and well-funded. For example, within a week of receiving samples of the SARS virus in April, Canadian and US scientists independently announced its genome sequence.

But many developing countries are plagued by diseases whose mortality rates exceed that of SARS, for example Ebola virus and sleeping sickness. Yet the developed world's reaction to these has been comparatively retarded.

In this letter to Nature, Jerome A Singh of the University of Natal, South Africa, argues that the developed world's response to these diseases of the poor is shortsighted and ethically flawed. Rather, he argues, the developed world should address the problems of poor countries with the speed and commitment that it demonstrated when it tackled SARS.

Link to letter in Nature

Reference: Nature 423, 585 (2003)