SARS-like pathogen infects patient from Qatar



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Great Britain reports infection with a possible SARS pathogen

In the UK, a SARS-like virus was discovered in a 49-year-old man from Saudi Arabia. Around ten years after the end of the pandemic, a new variant of the pathogen that had caused tens of thousands of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) diseases in 2002/2003 appeared.

"On September 22, 2012, the United Kingdom informed WHO of a case of acute respiratory syndrome with kidney failure in a person who had visited Saudi Arabia and Qatar," the World Health Organization said. The authorities were alarmed. However, no comparable rapid spread of the SARS-like pathogens as in the pandemic in 2002/2003 is currently expected. The infection was detected in a 49-year-old man from Qatar who had been in Saudi Arabia before his illness. The man is currently being cared for in a London hospital.

The patient's typical SARS symptoms were first identified in early September. The admission to an intensive care unit in Doha (Qatar) followed a few days later. After only two days the patient was transferred from there to the UK by air rescue because of his symptoms. The subsequent laboratory tests by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in the UK confirmed the presence of a new type of coronavirus, according to the WHO announcement under the heading "New coronavirus infection in Great Britain". The coronavirus family also includes the causative agents of severe acute respiratory syndrome, which claimed more than 1,000 lives worldwide in the wake of the pandemic around ten years ago. At that time, the infected suffered from atypical pneumonia with high fever, cough and difficulty breathing. The pathogens spread at an alarming rate and infected numerous people, especially in Asia. However, the rapid intervention of the WHO significantly limited the extent of the pandemic and in 2004 the WHO finally declared the end of the SARS epidemic.

The corona viruses were by no means completely gone. There was always the danger that a new corona virus could also infect humans. This is now apparently the case with the 49-year-old patient in Great Britain. The coronaviruses preferentially affect the respiratory tract and impair the function of the tiny cilia that are required to clean the lungs. This increases the risk of rapidly progressing severe pneumonia, as was also observed in the patient from Qatar. In addition, there are often other complaints, such as acute kidney failure in the current case. In addition to fever and cough, symptoms associated with it include sore throat, headache, and muscle and body aches.

Experts from the British Health Protection Agency have sequenced and isolated the virus in the 49-year-old patient. The detected pathogens were then compared to a coronavirus previously detected by the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands in the lung tissue of a deceased 60-year-old man from Saudi Arabia. The comparison showed an almost 100 percent agreement. This means that the SARS-like pathogens have now been detected for the second time in people who have been in Saudi Arabia at least temporarily. According to the WHO, there is no reason for travel restrictions so far.

For safety's sake, however, all persons who have had contact with the infected should be examined in the coming weeks, but there is no indication of any further illnesses, the official press release. "Since there are only two cases known worldwide so far and there are no specific indications of a spread, no special precautionary measures are required for the population or return travelers," emphasized the head of the HPA department for respiratory diseases, John Watson. (fp)

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