Scientists at National Taiwan University have successfully isolated the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus, the university said yesterday.
Researchers will now concentrate on developing a vaccine against the disease, which has claimed more than 400 lives and infected thousands around the world
The university hospital was the nation's first healthcare center to treat suspected SARS patients and more than 100 probable and suspected SARS patients are hospitalized at the facility.
Yesterday, the team studying the SARS virus released a set of preliminary results, confirming that the virus discovered in Taiwan is genetically different from those in other epidemic areas, such as Hong Kong and Toronto.
Chen Ding-shinn (
"Meanwhile, we scientists are doing our best to find more specific background information on our enemy as soon as possible," Chen said at a press conference yesterday.
Analyzing samples from SARS patients, university scientists successfully separated the TW1 isolate, which has now been sequenced by researchers at the National Health Research Institute.
A second isolate will be seq-uenced next week.
Chen Pei-jer (
Scientists cannot yet say what the implications of these differences are.
Chang Shan-chwen (
"That is greatly worrying to us," Chang said.
Chang also said that there was no guarantee that recovered SARS patients would not become infected by the virus again.
Meanwhile, the university team is working with both domestic and overseas research centers to develop a vaccine against SARS.
According to Chiang Bor-luen (
The university team has cultivated the SARS virus in the cells of monkey kidneys.
When the vaccine will be available remains uncertain, Chiang said.