#14 - JRL 7179
RUSSIAN SCIENTISTS BELIEVE SARS CAUSED BY MODIFIED BIRD VIRUS
MOSCOW, MAY 12th, 2003 /RIA NOVOSTI CORRESPONDENT/ -- The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus is a modified bird virus introduced to a human body. Such is the opinion of the Russian scientists voiced by Dr Anatoly Vorobyov, Head of the Microbiology and Immunology Department at the Sechenov Medical Academy of Moscow, member of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, and Dr Vitaly Zverev, Director of the Scientific Research Institute of Viral Preparations, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who spoke at a news conference at RIA Novosti Monday.
According to them, it is not by chance that SARS emerged and spread in China and other South-Asian countries. Many viruses do originate in Hong Kong and China, including new strains of the flue, the scientists noted. The population density is high there, and people traditionally live in close proximity to their poultry and livestock. At first, birds and pigs are affected by new viruses; then, "it all becomes mixed and people fall ill, too." "The SARS virus belongs to the corono-viruses, which are long known, but poorly studied, because they were not considered dangerous to humans - only to animals," the scientists went on to explain. "There are genetic racial differences in the susceptibility to infections agents; it is quite possible that the Chinese are more sensitive to the SARS virus than other ethnic groups," Dr. Vorobyov added.
At the same time, the scientists denied the possibility of the SARS virus being used as a biological weapon. A biological weapon is usually characterised by far greater morbidity and mortality, which is not true of SARS, Dr. Zverev said. He reminded that SARS mortality rate does not exceed that of pneumonia, and its proliferation rate isn't high either. It is possible to develop this virus in a lab, but it would be unstable, while the viruses which emerge naturally, do show stability.
"Lethal outcome in a SARS case usually has to do with the patient's general condition, and his or her resistance to the virus, Dr. Vorobyov said, noting that even natural smallpox kills only 30 to 50 percent of the population, while the rest recover. He also noted that 90 percent of the world's population have decreased immunity today.
According to him, it is "no wonder" that even SARS patients who recover still have abnormal changes in their lungs. "Recovered pneumonia patients often have them, too," the scientist concluded.
Commenting on the SARS problem, Dr. Zverev said "there is more panic to it than common sense." "This problem does have a solution, and what is done in Russia now, is done correctly," he asserted, underlining that "our sanitary service is considered one of the best in the world, a model to replicate."