Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
 CDC Home Search Health Topics A-Z

CDC Media Relations
Media Home | Contact Us
US Department of Health and Human Services logo and link

Media Relations Links
About Us
Media Contact
Frequently Asked Questions
Media Site Map

CDC News
Press Release Library
MMWR Summaries
B-Roll Footage
Upcoming Events

Related Links
Centers at CDC
Data and Statistics
Health Topics A-Z
Image Library
Publications, Software and Other Products
Global Health Odyssey
Find your state or local health department
HHS News
National Health Observances
Visit the FirstGov Web Site
Div. of Media Relations
1600 Clifton Road
MS D-14
Atlanta, GA 30333
(404) 639-3286
Fax (404) 639-7394

Press Release

For Immediate Release

April 14, 2003
Contact: CDC Media Relations:

CDC Lab Sequences Genome of New Coronavirus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today that it has sequenced the genome for the coronavirus believed to be responsible for the global epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS. The CDC sequence is nearly identical to that determined by a Canadian laboratory late last week. The significant difference is that the CDC-determined sequence has 15 additional nucleotides, which provides the important beginning of the sequence, CDC scientists said.

The results came just 12 days after a team of 10 scientists, supported by numerous technicians, began working around the clock to grow cells taken from a throat culture taken from one of the SARS patients in Vero cells (African green monkey kidney cells) in order to reproduce the ribonucleic acid (RNA) of the disease-causing coronavirus. The new sequence has 29,727 nucleotides, which places it well within the typical RNA boundaries for coronaviruses. Members of this viral family tend to have between 29,000 and 31,000 nucleotides.

Identifying the genetic sequence of a new virus is important to efforts to treat or prevent it, said Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC director. “Research laboratories can use this information to begin to target antiviral drugs, to form the basis for developing vaccines, and to develop diagnostic tests that can lead to early detection.”

In sequencing the genome, CDC scientists worked closely with coronavirus experts at academic institutions across the United States. “This is an active, working community of scientific experts who have been contributing their knowledge and expertise throughout this investigation,” said William Bellini, Ph.D., SARS laboratory team coordinator.

The nearly identical findings in the US and Canada are important because they were derived from different individuals who were infected in different countries. This suggests that the virus probably originated from a common source.

The CDC’s analysis of the virus is far from finished, officials emphasized. Because coronaviruses have the ability to mutate rapidly, scientists will compare the sequences from viruses isolated in cell culture to those obtained from diseased tissues taken from SARS patients. “This is essentially a draft. Now we need to see if what we have identified in the laboratory matches what’s causing disease in patients,” Bellini said.

But the groundbreaking work of isolating the genomic sequence speeds the task of comparison.

# # #

CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations.


Media Home Page | Accessibility | Privacy Policy | Contact Us

CDC Home | Search | Health Topics A-Z

This page last updated April 14, 2003

United States Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Office of Communication
Division of Media Relations