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Researchers recreate SARS virus, open door for potential defenses against future strains
Date:11/25/2008

CHAPEL HILL Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Vanderbilt University Medical Center have synthetically reconstructed the bat variant of the SARS coronavirus (CoV) that caused the SARS epidemic of 2003.

The scientists say designing and synthesizing the virus is a major step forward in their ability to find effective vaccines and treatments for any strain of SARS virus that might affect humans in the future.

A report of the work is due to appear in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition, which publishes papers online and later in print.

"Only three other teams of researchers have synthetically reconstructed a virus. In this case we reconstructed the likely progenitor of the SARS-CoV epidemic," said Ralph Baric, Ph.D., epidemiology professor at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and one of the leaders on the project. "The bat SARS virus is about four times larger than any other virus that has been synthesized to date. It will allow us to test the pathways in which the virus emerges and understand the ways that animal coronaviruses move from one species to another."

Baric and his team of epidemiology researchers worked with counterparts at Vanderbilt University Medical Center led by Mark Denison, M.D., professor of microbiology and pediatrics. The two teams collaborated closely to review the existing sequences of all bat SARS viruses; predict the actual sequence of the bat SARS-CoV that would be able to grow; design the synthesis of the genome; and recover and characterize the viruses that were synthetically reconstructed and rescued in the laboratory. They also studied the pathogenesis and the ability of therapeutics targeting epidemic strains to cure bat SARS-CoV infection.

SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) is believed to have first emerged humans in Asia in late 2002. Over the next several months, the illness spread to more
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Contact: Patric Lane
patric_lane@unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Source:Eurekalert

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