A year ago, a mystery virus began to kill people in China. Causing an illness dubbed severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the virus quickly spread beyond Asia and for a few months stirred fears of a worldwide epidemic.
With stunning speed, scientists identified the virus and decoded its genetic sequence (SN: 4/26/03, p. 262: Out of China: SARS virus' genome hints at independent evolution). Now, a research team has claimed victory in the race to identify the cellular receptor–the protein to which the virus attaches when it infects cells–for the SARS virus. Since the protein turned out to be a well-known one that had previously been implicated in heart disease, drugs that target the receptor are already under development. Some of those same compounds might serve as antiviral medications for SARS patients, say researchers.