The virus hunter

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 23 October 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:950
  1. Tony Sheldon
  1. Utrecht

    The scientist who helped to confirm the identity of the SARS virus is now asking countries to stockpile antiviral drugs in case of an influenza pandemic

    Professor Albert Osterhaus is known in the Netherlands as the “virus hunter.” He hit the headlines in April when the Dutch newspapers proclaimed that the virus responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) had finally been unmasked in the Netherlands, after a press conference convened by the World Health Organization announced the results of Osterhaus's experiments with macaque monkeys.

    Previously a coronavirus had been identified by teams in Hong Kong, Canada, the United States, and Germany as a possible cause of the new syndrome, and now Osterhaus's work has confirmed the identification. He published his results in Nature on 15 May ( 2003;423: 240).

    His involvement in tracking the cause of SARS had begun in March, when Klaus Stöhr, a virologist with the World Health Organization, had approached his laboratory and had asked him and his team to join the collaborative research effort, which eventually involved 13 laboratories across the world.

    Osterhaus's laboratory was ideally suited to the challenge, because of its track record and Osterhaus's own special interests. His doctoral dissertation was in feline coronavirus, and his team at …

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