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Evolutionary history of SARS supports bats as virus source
Date:2/19/2008

pramap.osu.edu/cov/janiesetal2008covsars.kmz">http://supramap.osu.edu/cov/janiesetal2008covsars.kmz.

The research appears in the online early edition of the journal Cladistics.

The rapid transmission of SARS from Asia to North America prompted a collaborative scientific and medical response to halt human infections and to share data about the viruss genetic characteristics. Despite the shared data, scientists have not reached agreement in identifying the animal source of the coronavirus that caused SARS in humans, a virus known as SARS-CoV.

Coronaviruses primarily infect the upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts of mammals and birds, and just a few are known to infect humans. Before SARS, attempts to understand coronaviruses were confined primarily to agricultural and veterinary circles. The rapid transmission of SARS among humans moved coronavirus study into the realm of human infectious diseases and comparative genomics.

Janies and his colleagues are not the first scientists to suggest bats were the source of SARS two research teams identified several species of Chinese bats as the natural viral reservoir in 2005 using a couple of genes from a few viruses. But Janies said he has put those findings to the test with the largest and most comprehensive analysis of coronavirus origins, using whole genomes from hundreds of viruses.

His group reconstructed the history of the disease, applying basic evolutionary theory to the study of virology. He said the genomic data put to rest any notion that civets were the cause of SARS.

The real story is that civets were not the animal reservoir of SARS. But its a messy story, Janies said. Bats harbor a strain of SARS that is our best example of the virus before it infected humans but we still see missing links in the history of the transfers of SARS from animals to humans because we dont know that much about coronavirus diversity. If you look at the way the bat v
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Contact: Daniel Janies
Daniel.Janies@osumc.edu
614-292-1202
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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