Learning how the SARS virus spikes its quarry

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Structural images that show how the SARS virus’s spike protein grasps its receptor may help scientists learn new details about how the virus infects cells and could also help in identifying potential weak points that novel drugs or vaccines could exploit.

A worldwide SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2002-2003 affected more than 8,000 people and killed 774 before being brought under control. Public health experts worry about another outbreak of the virus, which originates in animals such as civet cats.

The research team, led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Stephen C. Harrison at Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and colleague Michael Farzan, also at Harvard Medical School, reported its findings in the September 16, 2005 issue of the journal Science.