NIAID offers genome of SARS virus on chip

Editor's note: This story was revised from its original form to clarify terminology regarding the DNA chip being offered to researchers.

Jun 23, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – The National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) today announced it will offer a quartz chip containing the DNA of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) coronavirus to help researchers quickly detect tiny differences between strains of the virus.

"NIAID has purchased several hundred microarrays—essentially a reference strain of the SARS coronavirus embedded in a quartz chip—and will distribute the arrays at no cost to qualified researchers worldwide," the agency said in a news release. Researchers can request the chip using a simple Internet-based application, the agency said.

In the announcement, NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, MD, said, "This powerful tool will help us better understand this newly recognized pathogen and its spread, and will provide new leads in our search for effective SARS countermeasures."

The GeneChip SARS Array is made by Affymetrix, Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., the announcement said. The NIAID's Pathogen Functional Genomics Resource Center will coordinate distribution of the chip.

The array, designed with data from several research centers that sequenced the SARS coronavirus genome, includes the virus's 29,700 DNA base pairs, the NIAID said. Officials said the array will spur several lines of research:

  • Constructing a SARS coronavirus "family tree" by comparing the genomes of different virus isolates and using genetic relatedness to group them into subtypes
  • Determining which virus strains are most dangerous and gathering information for development of antiviral drugs by comparing clinical outcomes among people infected with different viral strains
  • Tracing the virus's evolution as it spreads to different populations in different regions over time

Details on the application procedure were posted on the NIAID Web site the agency said. The distribution program is part of an ongoing effort by NIAID to promote the use of genomics to improve the understanding of pathogenic microbes and the development of diagnostics and other medical tools for them.

See also:

NIAID news release

May 6, 2003, Affymetrix news release about the GeneChip SARS Array

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