Vidyya Medical News Service
Volume 6 Issue 362 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 27-Dec-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 28-Dec-2004
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Autopsies find SARS coronavirus found in lungs, other organs of those who died during Canadian outbreak

According to a study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, autopsies on 19 patients who died during the SARS outbreak in Toronto last year found the SARS coronavirus was present in the lungs of all of them. The virus was also found in 73 per cent of the bowel samples examined, 41 per of liver samples and 38 per cent of kidney samples.

Autopsies were performed on 21 of the 44 people who died after severe acute respiratory syndrome hit the city in the spring of 2003. Nineteen of those 21 had died less than 51 days (after onset of disease) and all 19 that died within 51 days had virus in their lungs, often at very high viral load.

The higher the viral load in a person, the more likely they were to progress to death and have the virus in other organs in the body. The findings are significant because they show there was a risk the virus could be transmitted to caregivers even weeks and months after the onset of illness. As well, those handling the patient after death and conducting post mortems would need to be protected from possible infection.

The SARS virus continues to stay in the lungs of patients as long as 51 days after the onset of illness.

Finding SARS coronavirus was in the bowel was also noteable. Over 70 per cent had virus identified in their small intestine and in their large intestine. It helps explain why people with SARS develop gastero-intestinal symptoms.

It is important for caregivers to be aware of the risks when SARS patients have diarrhea and they should take precautions. It becomes important in terms of transmission. SARS isn't just respiratory; it could be fecal-oral.

Around the globe, there were 8,098 probable SARS cases diagnosed in 29 countries, the bulk in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada and Singapore; 774 people died.

Few autopsies were performed around the world on SARS patients because people were too apprehensive.

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