Home>News Center>China

Bats may have been source of SARS - study
Updated: 2005-09-10 15:33

Bats found in Hong Kong carry a virus very similar to the severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS virus and might be able to spread it, Chinese researchers said on Friday, the Reuters reported.

They said the horseshoe bats, valued both as food and for their use in Chinese medicine, should be handled with great care. They may have helped spread the virus among different species of animals, the researchers said.

SARS spread around the world in 2003, killing more than 700 people and infecting around 8,000.

It is caused by a new virus called SARS coronavirus. Coronaviruses are common in people and animals and usually cause nothing more serious than a cold.

But SARS was different.

"The isolation of SARS-coronavirus from caged animals, including Himalayan palm civets and a raccoon dog, from wild live markets in Chinese mainland suggested that these animals are the reservoir for the origin of the SARS epidemic," Kwok-yung Yuen of the University of Hong Kong and colleagues wrote in their report, published in the Proceedings of the national Academy of Sciences.

"However, several lines of evidence suggested that the civet may have served only as an amplification host for SARS virus and provided the environment for major genetic variations permitting efficient animal-to human and human-to-human transmissions," they added.

So they studied wild animals in the Hong Kong countryside that may have come into contact with civets.

They found a coronavirus similar to SARS in nearly 40 percent of wild Chinese horseshoe bats they examined.

Genetic analysis of the bat SARS virus showed it was closely related to the human SARS coronavirus.

The researchers could not determine how the bats were originally infected or whether bats were responsible for transmitting the SARS coronavirus to other mammals including the civets.

But because bat feces are used in Chinese traditional medicine, and bat meat is considered a delicacy in parts of Asia, the researchers suggest caution in handling them.

"Interestingly, the nearest wildlife market previously found to have animals with SARS in Shenzhen is only 10 miles (17 km) away from the locations with bats harboring bat-SARS in (Hong Kong)," the researchers wrote.

President Hu in Canada for visit
Tree signals China-Canada friendship
Hu begins Canada visit
  Today's Top News     Top China News

China banks target public listings in 2006



President Hu praises China-Canada relations



Bats may have been source of SARS - study



Fireworks ban goes up in smoke in Beijing



Banker: Further RMB revaluation unnecessary



Katrina death toll may not hit 10,000


  China to plow US$240b into rail by 2015
  Companies urged to tackle AIDS
  Technology solution to agricultural challenges
  Law congress declaration seeks social advancement
  Pressured teachers need more support
  Dedicated teachers give disabled children a future
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  News Talk  
  It is time to prepare for Beijing - 2008