Background: Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a novel infectious disease. No information is currently available on host-specific immunity against the SARS coronavirus (CoV), and detailed characteristics of the epidemiology of SARS CoV infection have not been identified.
Methods: ELISA was used to detect antibody to SARS CoV. Reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction was used to detect SARS CoV RNA. T cells in peripheral blood of patients were quantified by flow cytometry.
Results: Of 36 patients with probable SARS CoV infection, 30 (83.3%) were positive for IgG antibody to SARS CoV; in contrast, only 3 of 48 patients with suspected SARS CoV infection, 0 of 112 patients with fever but without SARS, and 0 of 96 healthy control individuals were positive for it. IgG antibody to SARS CoV was first detected between day 5 and day 47 after onset of illness (mean +/- SD, 18.7+/-10.4).
Conclusion: Detection of antibody to SARS CoV is useful in the diagnosis of SARS; however, at the incubation and initial phases of the illness, serological assay is of little value, because of late seroconversion in most patients.