In the spring of 2003, a previously
unknown virus emerging in South East China suddenly gripped the world. Also
due to the extensive media coverage, the letters S A R S (for "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome")
became a household name in a matter of weeks.
Using conventional methods, like quarantining of patients
and elimination of the apparent source of the virus (which at that time was
assumed to be civet cats), the causative agent, the SARS-coronavirus
(SARS-CoV), was contained successfully by July 2003. Officially, according
to WHO records, 8096 people in 27 countries contracted SARS, of which 774
(mostly elderly) patients did not survive the infection.
Scientific research into this new infectious disease has
rapidly answered a number of questions with regard to SARS and SARS-CoV. By
now, this research has led to the publication of thousands of scientific
articles concerning various aspects of virus and disease, but has
nonetheless left room for the assumption that, sooner or later, SARS-CoV or
a closely related virus may re-emerge.