To understand the time-course of viraemia and antibody responses to severe acute respiratory syndrome-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV), RT-PCR and ELISA were used to assay 376 blood samples from 135 SARS patients at various stages of the illness, including samples from patients who were in their early convalescent phase. The results showed that IgM antibodies decreased and became undetectable 11 weeks into the recovery phase. IgG antibodies, however, remained detectable for a period beyond 11 weeks and were found in 100 % of patients in the early convalescent phase. SARS-CoV viraemia mainly appeared 1 week after the onset of illness and then decreased over a period of 1 month, becoming undetectable in the blood samples of the convalescent patients. At the peak of viraemia, viral RNA was detectable in 75 % of blood samples from patients who were clinically diagnosed with SARS 1 or 2 weeks before the test.