SARS – severe acute respiratory syndrome – is a viral respiratory illness caused by coronavirus, a family of viruses also implicated in the common cold. SARS is a distinct form of the coronavirus that was first identified in Asia in February 2003 and eventually resulted in a worldwide outbreak over a span of a few months. According to the World Health Organization, a total of 8,098 people contracted SARS and from this group, 774 died. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston discovered a specific receptor on the cell that is responsible for opening the door to the SARS virus, allowing the virus to bind, enter and then replicate at the cellular level. This finding is only a first step in what clinicians and researchers hope will be a major advance in the diagnosis, treatment and potential elimination of the SARS virus. The findings were published in the Nov. 27, 2003 issue of the journal Nature. With anxiety that SARS may reemerge, this finding has potential to play a major role in controlling the disease. “Our longer term goal will be to apply this information to make a vaccine,” said researcher Michael Farzan.