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U.S. Researchers Make Progress Toward SARS Remedy

It’s been a month since the first case of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome was confirmed in Hong Kong. Since then, the disease has killed more than 100 people and has infected thousands on 18 countries. VOA-TV’s Chris Simkins has more on the race for a medical breakthrough.

As the cases of SARS continues to increase, the U.S. government is urging scientists to make the search for a vaccine a priority. Researchers believe they have isolated the virus that causes the illness.

At the National Institutes of Health, researchers are growing the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the Institute’s Infectious Diseases Department, says scientists hope to have a vaccine ready for human testing in just over a year.

“The first hump, the first roadblock, the first obstacle in the development of a vaccine has really been overcome because the virus itself is readily available.”

Scientists hope to have a diagnostic test for SARS to help keep track of how many people really have the disease.

Director of the Centers for Disease Control Julie Gerberding is optimistic about the development of a SARS test.

“We think by the end of next week we will have all of the protocols developed and we’ll be well on our way to producing the reagents. And probably by two weeks we’ll have distributed this test methodology to at least many of the laboratories if not all of the laboratories in the public health system.”

As researchers look for more clues about SARS, scientists are providing more evidence that a new version of the coronavirus, believed responsible for the common cold, is causing the deadly disease.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, where most of the deadly cases have been reported, people are still wearing surgical masks for protection from SARS. Residents are also flooding counseling telephone hotlines hoping to relieve anxieties and fears about a disease that has hit the territory so hard.