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SARS Patients Needed to Test New Drug

An ingredient in a drug once used to treat schizophrenia can counteract the SARS virus, a team of domestic and international scientists said Tuesday.

The team said the ingredient will be used to develop a new drug, but they said research can not advance from the laboratory to clinical stage without patients.


"We are doing research on mice but it's very difficult to move into the clinical stage," Jiang Hualiang, a scientist at the Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences, told Shanghai Daily yesterday.


To test the new drug's effectiveness, scientists will need SARS patients to voluntarily accept treatment.


"We are ready if SARS makes a comeback," said Jiang. He is part of a team of Chinese and European researchers who found in laboratory tests that cinanserin can combat the coronavirus which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome.


The Chinese central government, the Shanghai municipal government and the European Union provided more than 3 million yuan (US$361,446) in the past two years to the scientists.


The group published their findings in the June issue of the Journal of Virology, which is based in the United States.


The paper said cinanserin "strongly reduces" the SARS virus' ability to replicate.


Cinanserin was used to treat schizophrenia and mania in the early 1970s, but its use was halted after the drug was found to cause cancer in rats after about 18 months of use, Jiang said.


He estimated the drug has no harmful side effects if used in small doses for a short period of time.


Peter kristensen, a professor from Denmark's University of Aarhus who also participated in the project, was quoted by Xinhua News Agency on Monday as saying: "The finding means that cinanserin could be directly prescribed to prevent SARS or treat SARS patients if the fatal epidemic mounts a comeback."


They selected cinanserin out of thousands of compounds to treat SARS.


(eastday.com, June 23, 2005)



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