Researchers in southern China who traced the virus that causes SARS to the endangered civet said SARS antibodies were found in traders of wild animals who did not develop symptoms of the disease, according to press reports yesterday.
Researchers found SARS antibodies in five traders of wild animals, but none of them developed any of the flu-like symptoms of SARS, He Yaqing, deputy director of the Shenzhen Center for Disease Control (CDC), told Saturday's Yangcheng Evening News. "This could be a very significant step if accurate," World Health Organization spokesman in Beijing Bob Dietz said.
"It means that we could be closer in finding the link between animals and humans that has always been suspected, but it is still not sure if these findings will help lead to a cure for SARS."
The findings suggest that the form of the coronavirus suspected to have jumped from either the civet or the raccoon to humans was actually less lethal than the SARS coronavirus transmitted among humans that has gone on to kill more than 700 and infected more than 8,000 worldwide.
After jumping from animals, the SARS virus mutated and became more lethal to humans, the researcher said.
In Hong Kong, officials announced plans yesterday to collect feces from civets to test them for SARS.
The announcement came on the same day as four more people died from the respiratory disease there.
The latest SARS fatalities pushed Hong Kong's toll to 266, but there was just one new case, for a total of 1,725.
People in the territory are reportedly abandoning their house cats following research that links the outbreak to cat-like civets.
People started taking their pet cats to grooming shops and leaving them, an animal cruelty society official was quoted yesterday as saying.