An investigation by a World Health Organisation team into the origin of SARS in southern China points to wild animals as the probable source of transmission of the pneumonia-like disease found in humans.
"There is very good reason to believe that animals are the reservoir and ultimately the source of how it gets introduced into the (human) population," WHO team leader Robert Breiman said at joint press briefing here Friday.
After a week-long probe in SARS-hit Guangzhou city the WHO found the coronavirus which causes the sometimes fatal pulmonary disease in cages housing civet cats at a restaurant where one of China’s two current suspected cases worked. Up to now, the WHO considered a direct link between civet cats and patients uncertain, even though some of the earliest SARS victims from the outbreak that eventually killed nearly 800 worldwide last year were wildlife dealers. The man, a 32-year-old journalist who was China’s first confirmed case in six months, reported having no contact with civets or other animals, except for a mouse. He has already been released from hospital. Because civet cats are popular and expensive cuisine in this part of the country, the findings led to a government order to slaughter all civet cats being bred or sold in Guangdong. The culling ended a week ago. Not only does the study show that 70 percent of civet cats were SARS coronavirus carriers, but some 40 percent of wildlife dealers had antibodies for the disease.
"We still don’t know exactly what role the civet cats play in the process of transmitting SARS or SARS-like illnesses," Breiman added. "We think they are involved in some way ... and there is a possible role for other animals including rodents", - reports &to=http://www.dailytimes.com' target=_blank>DailyTimes