Gene test for SARS unclear
( 2004-01-02 01:34) (China Daily)
Initial results of a gene sequencing test indicate a man suspected of having contracted severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) last week in South China's Guangdong Province might "possibly" have coronavirus.
He remains in stable condition in hospital, and no other suspected SARS cases were reported between 10 am Thursday and 10 am Friday on the Chinese mainland, the Ministry of Health reported in its daily SARS update.
Xu Ruiheng, deputy director of the Guangdong Provincial Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said experts had carried out SARS virus gene testing, gene dilation and gene sequencing on a sample secretion obtained from the man's throat.
Using the method of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), scientists obtained a gene section containing S, M and N genes from the suspect.
Comparing the sequences of the gene section with all those of the SARS coronavirus published by the international gene bank, the experts found that 98.8 to 99.4 per cent of 3,768 bases of S gene obtained from the suspect, 99 per cent of 658 bases of M gene, and 99 per cent of 1,068 bases of N gene, are isogenous with those of S, M and N genes published by the gene bank.
"Gene sequencing is of great significance for diagnosing SARS as the virus has not been extracted from the suspect," said Xu.
The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention is still cross-checking all the results.
The 32-year-old freelance TV station worker is the first suspected SARS case since May 23, 2003, when the World Health Organization (WHO) lifted the SARS-related travel advisory against Guangdong.
The first SARS case surfaced in Foshan City, Guangdong, in November 2002.
During the SARS outbreak last year, 5,327 SARS cases were reported on the Chinese mainland. The death toll from the disease stands at 349.
This latest suspected SARS case has drawn wide concern. But sources with the Ministry of Health said the country is better prepared for an epidemic that it was last year.
Yesterday the ministry announced establishment of a computer-based prompt reporting system. The system will enable the ministry and the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to know the occurrence of an epidemic, as well as other incidents putting the health of a number of people under threat, as soon as it is reported online by local health authorities.
The establishment of the system, an achievement of the ministry's emergency action plan started in the wake of last year's SARS outbreak, has officially abolished the former practice that saw local health departments report only to their direct superior about disease outbreaks.
In such cases it usually took at least several days for an epidemic taking place in a county to be known by the ministry.
The ministry has also completed its expert data base, which allows the ministry to dispatch 20 qualified experts within 24 hours of an emergency being reported.
On Thursday experts from WHO held a closed-door session with officials and experts from the national and Guangdong health departments in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong.
Dr Augusto Pinto of WHO said the meeting covered measures to prevent SARS infection in hospitals, and the supervision and monitoring of those in contact with SARS patients, as well as other anti-SARS measures in Guangdong.
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