Monday, 26 November 2012

New coronavirus: May be 'bat bug'

Bats may be the source of a new Sars-like virus which killed a man in Saudi Arabia, according to an analysis of the coronavirus' genome.

Two other people have been infected and one, who was flown to the UK for treatment in September, is still in intensive care.

Experts, writing in the journal mBio, said the virus was closely related to other viruses in bats.

It is thought the virus does not pass readily from one person to another.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses ranging from the common cold to the Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus. They infect a wide range of animals.

In 2002 an outbreak of the Sars coronavirus killed about 800 people after it spread from Hong Kong to more than 30 countries around the world.

Genetic code
The new coronavirus was detected after a 60-year-old man died of pneumonia and kidney failure in Saudi Arabia in June.

A second man, who was brought to the UK from Qatar, still needs an artificial lung to stay alive.

The UK's Health Protection Agency (HPA) published the full genetic sequence of the case in London earlier this month.

Dr Ron Fouchier, from the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands, analysed the case from Saudi Arabia.

He said both cases were related, but it looked as though the men had been infected separately from animals rather than the virus being passed between people.

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