Sunday, April 13, 2003

Sequencing SARS According to this New York Times article, scientists working in the United States and Canada have successfully sequenced the genome of the virus believed to cause SARS, the flu-like disease that has been spreading at an alarming rate over the last three weeks. The bug in question is apparently a new kind of coronavirus, one previously unknown either in plants or animals. It is hoped that understanding the virus' genome could lead to effective treatments against it, or at least make it possible to control the vector spreading it. The article notes the relationship between the present virus and the hantavirus that afflicted the American Southwest a decade ago. In that case knowing the structure of the virus made it clear that it was being spread by rodents, and deer mice were quickly identified as the culprits. Controlling the deer mice population brought the disease under control.

It is worth pointing out that all of this research has taken place in government-funded laboratories in the United States and Canada. Looks like government can do something right after all.

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