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Killer virus may be new common cold bug.

Byline: John von Radowitz

A new and dangerous type of common cold virus was named yesterday as the chief suspect behind the deadly Sars infection that has caused 100 deaths.

Scientists in Hong Kong found strong evidence that a new kind of human coronavirus is the main cause of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Coronaviruses are thought to be the second most common cause of cold symptoms after rhinoviruses.

They also infect a wide range of domestic animals, including dogs and cats. One theory is that the human virus spread from animals.

Normally in humans coronaviruses produce mild symptoms such as sore throats, coughs, sneezing and headaches.

But the new coronavirus appears to be in a different league, producing a severe pneumonialike illness, a collapse of lung function, and death.

Five victims of Sars, which originated in China, are being treated in hospital in Britain.

Health officials in Hong Kong said that a 78-year-old woman had become the 100th person in the world to die of the disease.

The new scientific findings were published yesterday on the website of The Lancet medical journal.

Coronavirus had already been suspected of involvement in Sars, but the new evidence makes the link much stronger.

Professor Malik Peiris, from the University of Hong Kong, and colleagues studied 50 patients with Sars from five separate outbreak clusters.

A new type of coronavirus was first isolated and identified from two of the patients.

Subsequently, evidence of viral activity was found in 90 per cent of the patient group but no healthy individuals or people with unrelated illnesses.

The scientists pointed out that the new virus was not one of the two known human coronaviruses. Nor was it quite like any of the known animal coronaviruses.

Professor Peiris believes it may be a new virus which originated in animals and jumped to humans.

There have been suggestions that Sars may be caused by a virus which normally infects pigs.


Fans of screen and singing legend Leslie Cheung, many of them wearing surgical masks as protection against severe acute respiratory syndrome, line up in a street outside a funeral parlour in Hong Kong as they wait to catch a glimpse of Cheung's hearse. The actor jumped to his death last week.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 9, 2003
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