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EPISARS — Result In Brief

Project ID: 511063
Funded under: FP6-POLICIES
Country: France

Prevention of SARS infection

A multidisciplinary approach combined animal and human studies to prevent resurgence of a SARS epidemic.
Prevention of SARS infection
The SARS epidemic presented an exemplary situation of a viral infection outbreak which triggered the rapid studying of the virus in time to prevent further spreading of the disease. Using epidemiological and virological tools, valuable information regarding SARS was obtained including its animal reservoirs and mode of infectivity.

Central to these findings was the EU-funded ‘Prevention of future SARS epidemics through the control of animal and human infection’ (Episars) project. The project aimed to control animal and human SARS-related coronavirus (CoV) infection by preventing the re-emergence of SARS disease in human populations. The project consisted of two parts: the first concentrated on the identification and control of the animal reservoir of SARS-like CoV, while the second focused on the human SARS epidemiology based on the 2003 Chinese epidemic data.

Studies on the search for the animal reservoir identified the horseshoe bats as reservoirs for SARS-like CoV, and revealed the crucial role played by the masked palm civets in the spread of the disease to humans. Detailed analysis of the genetic variation, ecology and behaviour of the masked palm civet shaped the control of its farming and selling.

Additionally, epidemiologic analysis confirmed serological data obtained in China in 2003 and provided information regarding the long-term excretion of the virus, the type and the sustainability of the immune response.

Collectively, the findings of the Episars project enhanced our understanding of the epidemiology of SARS-related viruses and helped issue guidelines for the local prevention and control of the animal reservoir. International implementation of these rules is hoped to minimise future SARS outbreaks among humans.

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