Severe acute respiratory syndrome, better known as SARS, is a viral respiratory illness first reported in Asia in February 2003. Over the next few months, the illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia killing 700 and infecting 8000 more before the SARS global outbreak of 2003 was contained. Now, a scientific review of more than 70 published studies on the SARS outbreak finds no clear indication of which treatments were most effective against the disease.
Lauren Stockman, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and co-author of the ');">World Health Organization report, explains why the SARS treatment analysis was inconclusive: "The wide range of doses that were given, the combination of drugs that were given and the differences in the patients' conditions within each study really prevented us from concluding that any one treatment was beneficial in the patients' outcome."
Researchers also looked at the effects of antiviral drugs, steroids and proteins found naturally in human blood. But Stockman says the studies were too dissimilar to compare. "The differences in patients between groups were so great that we just couldn't say that their outcome was due to a treatment rather than some other factor."
The WHO report suggests that for more meaningful results, a study must follow strict protocols and be implemented consistently across clinical settings and institutions. Researchers hope the report encourages more effective research methods and communication among public health professionals in charting future disease outbreaks.