No significant genetic difference in viruses responsible for two major Hong Kong SARS outbreaks

November 27, 2003

The possibility that two different strains of the SARS virus were responsible for the Prince of Wales Hospital and Amoy Gardens outbreaks in Hong Kong earlier this year is disputed by authors of a research letter in this week's issue of THE LANCET.

SARS is a global health concern. The apparent increased frequency of diarrhoea (73% compared with 20%), admission to intensive care (32% compared with 23%), and death (13% compared with 4%) among the Amoy Gardens outbreak has resulted in the theory that the two viruses responsible had different genetic structures.

Dennis Lo and colleagues from the Chinese University of Hong Kong did genomic sequencing for viral isolates from five Amoy Gardens patients. The virus sequence was identical to the virus responsible for the hospital outbreak in four of these five patients; the sequence data from the Amoy Gardens virus had only three nucleotide differences from the hospital virus.

Dennis Lo comments: "Alterations in the SARS coronavirus genome are unlikely to have caused the distinctive clinical features of the Amoy Gardens patients, and these results highlight the importance of non-viral genomic factors in this outbreak."
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Lancet

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