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SARS Genetic Code Identified

By Laurie Garrett

STAFF WRITER

April 15, 2003

Two laboratories in the United States and Canada have figured out the complete genetic code of the virus suspected of causing the respiratory disorder SARS, a step essential to developing diagnostic tests and treatments.

The findings are remarkable because of their speed – by comparison, it took nearly three years to find the virus that causes AIDS and another two years to determine its full genetic sequence – and their almost letter-for-letter similarity. The CDC’s genomic sequence is longer than the Canadians’ by only 15 genetic letters, or nucleotides – a mere blip in the virus’ total of 29,736 nucleotides. The makeup of a virus is expected to vary slightly by geographic region. But coupled with optimism that the finding can serve as a road map for developing diagnostic tests, drug development and a vaccine is the continuing mystery: The virus is completely different from any known animal or human pathogen, and public health authorities are unable to conjecture where or how it originated.

It has been presumed that the SARS virus mutated from one that infects animals. But both teams concluded that it bears no resemblance to any known human or animal virus, and actually constitutes its own subclass within the coronavirus family.

“We need to go to China [where the outbreak began] and really do the shoe-leather detective work to find out who were the first cases, where did they go, what did they do,” and with what animals might they have been in contact, Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.

She characterized the decoding of the virus as “tremendously exciting,” especially because it was accomplished in 31 days. “It’s a scientific achievement that I don’t think has ever been paralleled in human history.”

The CDC’s announcement came on the heels of the weekend’s genetic sequencing announcement from the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver. Though researchers the world over are collaborating in efforts to control SARS – to date it has caused 3,169 cases, 144 of them fatal – there was a competitive breathlessness to the Canadian and CDC reports.

The determination of whether the virus actually causes SARS must await identification of an animal that can be infected with the virus. So far, researchers have not been able to infect and produce the disease in animals. Gerberding indicated yesterday that a lab in the Netherlands may soon have promising results in primates.

Labs in Hong Kong, Japan and Europe are working on their own genetic sequences of the virus, and those findings are expected to shed light on geographic differences, perhaps addressing the issue of “super-spreaders” – people who are so contagious that they seem to infect everybody with whom they come in contact. In Singapore, for example, 60 SARS cases are linked to two wards of Singapore General Hospital. Yesterday the Ministry of Health said the outbreak started with a 90-year-old Chinese woman who passed her infection on to her nursing home attendant. The elderly woman died; the attendant and two other family members are hospitalized. Nearly everyone on the two wards who came within a few feet of the elderly woman later developed the disease.

In Britain, authorities confirmed recently that a man who waited for his plane at Heathrow Airport in London apparently caught SARS from a stranger seated near him in the waiting area. The stranger had traveled from Hong Kong.

Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.

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SARS Genetic Code Identified

By Laurie Garrett

STAFF WRITER

April 15, 2003

Two laboratories in the United States and Canada have figured out the complete genetic code of the virus suspected of causing the respiratory disorder SARS, a step essential to developing diagnostic tests and treatments.

The findings are remarkable because of their speed – by comparison, it took nearly three years to find the virus that causes AIDS and another two years to determine its full genetic sequence – and their almost letter-for-letter similarity. The CDC’s genomic sequence is longer than the Canadians’ by only 15 genetic letters, or nucleotides – a mere blip in the virus’ total of 29,736 nucleotides. The makeup of a virus is expected to vary slightly by geographic region. But coupled with optimism that the finding can serve as a road map for developing diagnostic tests, drug development and a vaccine is the continuing mystery: The virus is completely different from any known animal or human pathogen, and public health authorities are unable to conjecture where or how it originated.

It has been presumed that the SARS virus mutated from one that infects animals. But both teams concluded that it bears no resemblance to any known human or animal virus, and actually constitutes its own subclass within the coronavirus family.

“We need to go to China [where the outbreak began] and really do the shoe-leather detective work to find out who were the first cases, where did they go, what did they do,” and with what animals might they have been in contact, Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.

She characterized the decoding of the virus as “tremendously exciting,” especially because it was accomplished in 31 days. “It’s a scientific achievement that I don’t think has ever been paralleled in human history.”

The CDC’s announcement came on the heels of the weekend’s genetic sequencing announcement from the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver. Though researchers the world over are collaborating in efforts to control SARS – to date it has caused 3,169 cases, 144 of them fatal – there was a competitive breathlessness to the Canadian and CDC reports.

The determination of whether the virus actually causes SARS must await identification of an animal that can be infected with the virus. So far, researchers have not been able to infect and produce the disease in animals. Gerberding indicated yesterday that a lab in the Netherlands may soon have promising results in primates.

Labs in Hong Kong, Japan and Europe are working on their own genetic sequences of the virus, and those findings are expected to shed light on geographic differences, perhaps addressing the issue of “super-spreaders” – people who are so contagious that they seem to infect everybody with whom they come in contact. In Singapore, for example, 60 SARS cases are linked to two wards of Singapore General Hospital. Yesterday the Ministry of Health said the outbreak started with a 90-year-old Chinese woman who passed her infection on to her nursing home attendant. The elderly woman died; the attendant and two other family members are hospitalized. Nearly everyone on the two wards who came within a few feet of the elderly woman later developed the disease.

In Britain, authorities confirmed recently that a man who waited for his plane at Heathrow Airport in London apparently caught SARS from a stranger seated near him in the waiting area. The stranger had traveled from Hong Kong.

Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.

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–>

SARS Genetic Code Identified

By Laurie Garrett

STAFF WRITER

April 15, 2003

Two laboratories in the United States and Canada have figured out the complete genetic code of the virus suspected of causing the respiratory disorder SARS, a step essential to developing diagnostic tests and treatments.

The findings are remarkable because of their speed – by comparison, it took nearly three years to find the virus that causes AIDS and another two years to determine its full genetic sequence – and their almost letter-for-letter similarity. The CDC’s genomic sequence is longer than the Canadians’ by only 15 genetic letters, or nucleotides – a mere blip in the virus’ total of 29,736 nucleotides. The makeup of a virus is expected to vary slightly by geographic region. But coupled with optimism that the finding can serve as a road map for developing diagnostic tests, drug development and a vaccine is the continuing mystery: The virus is completely different from any known animal or human pathogen, and public health authorities are unable to conjecture where or how it originated.

It has been presumed that the SARS virus mutated from one that infects animals. But both teams concluded that it bears no resemblance to any known human or animal virus, and actually constitutes its own subclass within the coronavirus family.

“We need to go to China [where the outbreak began] and really do the shoe-leather detective work to find out who were the first cases, where did they go, what did they do,” and with what animals might they have been in contact, Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.

She characterized the decoding of the virus as “tremendously exciting,” especially because it was accomplished in 31 days. “It’s a scientific achievement that I don’t think has ever been paralleled in human history.”

The CDC’s announcement came on the heels of the weekend’s genetic sequencing announcement from the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver. Though researchers the world over are collaborating in efforts to control SARS – to date it has caused 3,169 cases, 144 of them fatal – there was a competitive breathlessness to the Canadian and CDC reports.

The determination of whether the virus actually causes SARS must await identification of an animal that can be infected with the virus. So far, researchers have not been able to infect and produce the disease in animals. Gerberding indicated yesterday that a lab in the Netherlands may soon have promising results in primates.

Labs in Hong Kong, Japan and Europe are working on their own genetic sequences of the virus, and those findings are expected to shed light on geographic differences, perhaps addressing the issue of “super-spreaders” – people who are so contagious that they seem to infect everybody with whom they come in contact. In Singapore, for example, 60 SARS cases are linked to two wards of Singapore General Hospital. Yesterday the Ministry of Health said the outbreak started with a 90-year-old Chinese woman who passed her infection on to her nursing home attendant. The elderly woman died; the attendant and two other family members are hospitalized. Nearly everyone on the two wards who came within a few feet of the elderly woman later developed the disease.

In Britain, authorities confirmed recently that a man who waited for his plane at Heathrow Airport in London apparently caught SARS from a stranger seated near him in the waiting area. The stranger had traveled from Hong Kong.

Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.

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7 Iraqis Killed In Checkpoint Tragedy

March 31, 2003

(CBS/AP)

“It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen, and I hope I never see it again.”

Sgt. Mario Manzano

(CBS) U.S. troops killed at least seven Iraqi women and children at a checkpoint Monday when the Iraqis’ van would not stop as ordered, U.S. Central Command said.

Two other civilians were wounded at a U.S. Army checkpoint on a highway near Najaf in southern Iraq, according to a Pentagon official and a Central Command statement. The military is investigating, the statement said.

The soldiers involved were from the 3rd Infantry Division, the same unit that lost four soldiers at a checkpoint near Najaf Saturday when an Iraqi soldier dressed as a civilian detonated a car bomb.

The seven dead and two wounded on Monday were among 13 women and children in a van that approached the checkpoint but did not stop, according to the Central Command statement.

It said soldiers motioned for the driver to stop but were ignored. The soldiers then fired warning shots, which also were ignored. They then shot into the vehicle’s engine, but the van continued moving toward the checkpoint, according to the statement.

The Washington Post offered an account of the tragedy that suggested no warning shots were fired. The newspaper said Army Capt. Ronny Johnson urgently called for warning shots to be fired as the van approached the checkpoint, but that there was no apparent response from his troops.

Finally, Johnson ordered his troops to open fire on the vehicle, which proved to be packed with women and children.

The Post said that after viewing the carnage through binoculars, Johnson said to his platoon leader: “You just [expletive] killed a family because you didn’t fire a warning shot soon enough!”

“It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen, and I hope I never see it again,” Sgt. Mario Manzano, 26, an Army medic later told the Post. Manzano said one of the women sat in the van holding the mangled bodies of two of her children. “She didn’t want to get out of the car,” he told the newspaper.

Central Command said initial reports indicated the soldiers followed the rules of engagement to protect themselves. “In light of recent terrorist attacks by the Iraqi regime, the solders exercised considerable restraint to avoid the unnecessary loss of life,” the statement said.

© MMIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

7 Iraqis Killed In Checkpoint Tragedy

March 31, 2003

(CBS/AP)

“It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen, and I hope I never see it again.”

Sgt. Mario Manzano

(CBS) U.S. troops killed at least seven Iraqi women and children at a checkpoint Monday when the Iraqis’ van would not stop as ordered, U.S. Central Command said.

Two other civilians were wounded at a U.S. Army checkpoint on a highway near Najaf in southern Iraq, according to a Pentagon official and a Central Command statement. The military is investigating, the statement said.

The soldiers involved were from the 3rd Infantry Division, the same unit that lost four soldiers at a checkpoint near Najaf Saturday when an Iraqi soldier dressed as a civilian detonated a car bomb.

The seven dead and two wounded on Monday were among 13 women and children in a van that approached the checkpoint but did not stop, according to the Central Command statement.

It said soldiers motioned for the driver to stop but were ignored. The soldiers then fired warning shots, which also were ignored. They then shot into the vehicle’s engine, but the van continued moving toward the checkpoint, according to the statement.

The Washington Post offered an account of the tragedy that suggested no warning shots were fired. The newspaper said Army Capt. Ronny Johnson urgently called for warning shots to be fired as the van approached the checkpoint, but that there was no apparent response from his troops.

Finally, Johnson ordered his troops to open fire on the vehicle, which proved to be packed with women and children.

The Post said that after viewing the carnage through binoculars, Johnson said to his platoon leader: “You just [expletive] killed a family because you didn’t fire a warning shot soon enough!”

“It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen, and I hope I never see it again,” Sgt. Mario Manzano, 26, an Army medic later told the Post. Manzano said one of the women sat in the van holding the mangled bodies of two of her children. “She didn’t want to get out of the car,” he told the newspaper.

Central Command said initial reports indicated the soldiers followed the rules of engagement to protect themselves. “In light of recent terrorist attacks by the Iraqi regime, the solders exercised considerable restraint to avoid the unnecessary loss of life,” the statement said.

© MMIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

7 Iraqis Killed In Checkpoint Tragedy

March 31, 2003

(CBS/AP)

“It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen, and I hope I never see it again.”

Sgt. Mario Manzano

(CBS) U.S. troops killed at least seven Iraqi women and children at a checkpoint Monday when the Iraqis’ van would not stop as ordered, U.S. Central Command said.

Two other civilians were wounded at a U.S. Army checkpoint on a highway near Najaf in southern Iraq, according to a Pentagon official and a Central Command statement. The military is investigating, the statement said.

The soldiers involved were from the 3rd Infantry Division, the same unit that lost four soldiers at a checkpoint near Najaf Saturday when an Iraqi soldier dressed as a civilian detonated a car bomb.

The seven dead and two wounded on Monday were among 13 women and children in a van that approached the checkpoint but did not stop, according to the Central Command statement.

It said soldiers motioned for the driver to stop but were ignored. The soldiers then fired warning shots, which also were ignored. They then shot into the vehicle’s engine, but the van continued moving toward the checkpoint, according to the statement.

The Washington Post offered an account of the tragedy that suggested no warning shots were fired. The newspaper said Army Capt. Ronny Johnson urgently called for warning shots to be fired as the van approached the checkpoint, but that there was no apparent response from his troops.

Finally, Johnson ordered his troops to open fire on the vehicle, which proved to be packed with women and children.

The Post said that after viewing the carnage through binoculars, Johnson said to his platoon leader: “You just [expletive] killed a family because you didn’t fire a warning shot soon enough!”

“It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen, and I hope I never see it again,” Sgt. Mario Manzano, 26, an Army medic later told the Post. Manzano said one of the women sat in the van holding the mangled bodies of two of her children. “She didn’t want to get out of the car,” he told the newspaper.

Central Command said initial reports indicated the soldiers followed the rules of engagement to protect themselves. “In light of recent terrorist attacks by the Iraqi regime, the solders exercised considerable restraint to avoid the unnecessary loss of life,” the statement said.

© MMIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.