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Executive Summary
Topics and Speakers
Coronavirus Biology and Pathogenesis
Molecular Biology of Coronaviruses
Coronavirus Pathogenesis
Coronavirus Transmission and Persistence
Technology in SARS Discovery
Panel 1 Discussion
On the Front Lines
Approaches to Vaccines and Drug Development
Future Perspectives on Emerging Infections
References and Resources
pdf Conference Transcript
pdf Conference Highlights
SARS in the Context of Emerging Infectious Threats SARS in the Context of Emerging Infectious Threats
Coronavirus Biology and Pathogenesis
Moderated by Dr. Scott Hammer

Click on the titles at the left to view the video, transcript, slides, and text highlights from each speaker's presentation.

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Ellis Rubinstein, Chief Executive Officer, New York Academy of Sciences

Introductory Remarks
W. Ian Lipkin, Director of the Center for Immunopathogenesis and Infectious Diseases, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York

Paul Masters, Wadsworth Center, NY State Dept. of Health, Albany
Molecular Biology of Coronaviruses

Kathryn V. Holmes, Department of Microbiology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver
Coronavirus Pathogenesis

Linda Saif, Professor, Food Animal Health Research Program, Ohio State University, Wooster
Coronavirus Transmission and Persistence

Thomas Ksiazek, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta
Technology in SARS Discovery

Panel 1 Discussion


Ellis Rubinstein, Chief Executive Officer, New York Academy of Sciences
• The NYAS will be launching in Fall 2003 a series of seminars in the hottest fields of science.
• Seminars and conferences will be presented on the Web with educational materials and other resources.
• This event is the start of an exciting partnership at the Academy to bring together industry and academic scientists.
• The SARS epidemic has brought out acts of heroism on the part of those on the front lines, including scientists, doctors, and journalists.

W. Ian Lipkin, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York
• Dr. Lipkin phoned into this conference because he had contracted a fever and cough after a visit to China. Although expert consensus is that he does not have SARS, Dr. Lipkin remained in quarantine until May 25, 2003.
• Dr. Lipkin serves as a special advisor on SARS to the Ministries of Science and Technology and Health in China and is helping to coordinate international research efforts.


Coronaviruses owe their crown-like appearance to a multitude of spike (S) proteins studding their surfaces, explained Paul S. Masters, Ph.D., an investigator and professor of molecular genetics at the Wadsworth Center of the New York State Department of Health. These S proteins take on the task of fusing the virus to a victim's cells, enabling the pathogen to set up shop in the cell. The coronavirus' other three proteins—the membrane (M) protein, envelope (E) protein, and nucleocapsid (N) protein—then go to work, essentially turning the host cell into a factory that manufactures and exports newly formed coronaviruses which can attack other cells in the body.

Coronaviruses are highly species-specific, noted Kathryn V. Holmes, Ph.D., a molecular biologist at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. They cause a variety of respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurologic infections in animals and humans. But because host cell receptors differ between species, a coronavirus that causes a respiratory infection in a pig, for example, has no effect on humans or chickens . . . unless the virus mutates. Such mutation might explain the origin of the SARS virus, which researchers speculate may have come from an animal in south China, where the first SARS cases materialized. "Many of these viruses have probably been with their hosts for a long time," Holmes said. "But how much change does there have to be for a virus to jump to a different host?"

Holmes studies the mouse hepatitis virus, a coronavirus that may shed light on the behavior of the SARS virus. She outlined several potential targets for treating the SARS coronavirus, including those that interfere with its replication machinery as well as vaccines. "If we can develop these therapies, they will be applicable not only to SARS, but also to a large number of diseases in animals," she concluded.

Two species that could be especially helped by such treatments are pigs and cows. Linda J. Saif, Ph.D., a professor and researcher with Ohio State University's Agricultural Research and Development Center, described coronaviruses that cause severe and often fatal respiratory and gastrointestinal infections in these animals, gleaning information about coronavirus infection progression and potential modes of treatment. Studies have shown that these infections may be exacerbated when the virus is administered via aerosol, at high doses, with immunosuppressive drugs, or in the presence of other viral or bacterial infections—data that may yield clues about who is most vulnerable to SARS infection.

Moreover, cows that co-mingle with other cattle from different farms and/or have experienced stress during shipping (causing "shipping fever") are more susceptible to coronaviral infections. "We see something similar to this in SARS patients who recently experienced the stress of travel," noted Saif. She described various vaccines that have been developed for these infections in animals, some of which are effective but most of which offer limited protection.

Thanks to a mix of classic and modern techniques, scientists are refining the way the SARS virus is being detected, explained Thomas G. Ksiazek, D.V.M., Ph.D., acting chief of the Special Pathogens Branch in the Division of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He chronicled the efforts of medical detectives to isolate and characterize the virus—initially using immunohistochemical staining, and later confirming its identity and genome with RT-PCR sequencing and array technology. Indirect fluorescent antibody testing and ELISA have been employed to garner more information. "The sequencing of the virus' genome so rapidly is a good use of modern technology, and will make diagnosis of the infection and therapy with vaccines possible in the future," concluded Ksiazek.

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