Infectious Diseases 2006

Infectious Diseases 2006

China: Avian influenza misdiagnosed as SARS ?

22 June, 2006

In a letter published this week in an American medical magazine, the New England Journal of Medicine a group of Chinese scientists said a 24-year-old man had pneumonia and respiratory distress in November 2003 and died four days after being hospitalized. Because the clinical manifestations were consistent with those of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and occurred when sporadic cases of SARS were described in southern China. All tests were negative for SARS. A virus was isolated from the lung tissue. The genomic sequence of the virus (A/Beijing/01/2003) was determined, and its eight segments were genetically related most closely to corresponding sequences of influenza A (H5N1) viruses that had been isolated from chickens in various regions of China in 2004. In their letter, the Chinese scientists say the tests of the dead man's tissue turned up positive for the avian influenza virus. The journal editors said that yesterday morning they received an e-mail message that appeared to be from the letter's authors, asking to withdraw the letter. But it was too late to do so, and the authors could not be contacted by phone or by e-mail message. China must confess to its complicity in the spread of avian influenza.