What Are the Latest Developments in SARS Research?
Developing MedicationsAt this point, intensive and supportive medical care is the primary SARS treatment. However, the SARS virus is being tested against various antiviral drugs to see if an effective SARS treatment can be found. While several compounds have shown antiviral activity, only alpha interferon is suitable for immediate clinical evaluation.
As more information about the mechanisms of the SARS virus infection is discovered, research scientists are beginning to design drugs specifically aimed at its weak points. One such project is developing an "entry inhibitor" that prevents the SARS virus from infecting human cells.
Tests to Diagnose SARSBecause the symptoms of SARS are similar to those of influenza (the flu), doctors must have fast, accurate tests to identify and, if necessary, isolate people with SARS. Research scientists in Hong Kong developed a test that is able to detect the virus in respiratory aspirates (material taken from the lungs and bronchial passages) and in fecal samples. Research on SARS is continuing to improve the accuracy of this test.
The SARS VaccineSince it is unknown which type of SARS vaccine will be most effective against the SARS virus, scientists are pursuing several different approaches in the search for a SARS vaccine.
In 2003, the National Institutes of Health awarded contracts to Baxter Healthcare and Sanofi Pasteur to produce experimental inactivated whole virus SARS vaccines and awarded a contract to Protein Sciences Corporation to produce a recombinant subunit SARS vaccine. Once these experimental SARS vaccines are ready, they will be tested in clinical trials.
Another possible SARS vaccine developed by research scientists at the National Institutes of Health has entered a phase 1 clinical trial. This trial will test 10 healthy volunteers to determine if the vaccine is safe in people and to examine the immune response. These volunteers will be followed for three years.