Solving the SARS Mystery

Global Think Tanks

The World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and many other organizations have brought hundreds of people together in an unprecedented effort to solve the SARS mystery. According to the WHO site, the WHO collaborative network of clinicians for SARS diagnosis and treatment (Canada, Germany, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom and Viet Nam) is responsible for:

  • compiling case management data from all affected hospitals
  • comparing findings, including clinical, laboratory and x-ray results
  • developing a working archive of x-ray images to be used in comparative studies
  • updating the case definition and developing suggestions for clinical diagnosis
  • creating treatment recommendations, including discharge criteria

On March 17th, an international research network was created to bring together the resources of 11 top-level labs in 10 countries. Researchers in these labs are studying information from the collaborative network of clinicians. As a result, scientists have been able to develop two diagnostic tests. An antibody test and an immunofluorescent test have been created to look for the coronavirus that causes SARS. Most traditional antibody tests can take more than 10 days to process. According to one BBC article Artus, a biotechnology company in Germany, is currently distributing a high-speed SARS test. Reportedly, this new test takes a mere 2 hours to identify the SARS virus.

Travel Advisory

According to a recent press release, WHO now recommends that individuals should suspend travel to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Guangdong Province of China, unless it is absolutely necessary.

This is the first time in at least 12 years (and possibly ever) that the World Health Organization (WHO) has made this sort of recommendation because of a disease.

WHO regularly makes travel recommendations to curtail the infection of travelers by posting alerts in regard to various areas, regions and countries. Usually, the organization provides information regarding vaccinations. Because there is no vaccination or even any definitive medicinal treatment for SARS at this time, the World Health Organization really has no other choice but to advise travelers to avoid the area entirely.

The CDC and WHO continue to update their Web sites with valuable information about SARS and other infectious diseases. For more information on SARS and related topics, check out the links on the following page.