Molecular targets for diagnostics and therapeutics of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV)

J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2008 Apr 19;11(2):1s-13s. doi: 10.18433/j3j019.


Purpose: The large number of deaths in a short period of time due to the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) infection led to the unparalleled collaborative efforts world wide to determine and characterize the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV). The full genome sequence was determined within weeks of the first outbreak by the Canadian group with international collaboration. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), the continual lack of a rapid laboratory test to aid the early diagnosis of suspected cases of SARS makes this area a priority for future research. To prevent deaths in the future, early diagnosis and therapy of this infectious disease is of paramount importance.

Methods: This review describes the specific molecular targets for diagnostics and therapeutics of viral infection.

Results: The three major diagnostic methods available for SARS includes viral RNA detection by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), virus induced antibodies by immunofluorescence assay (IFA) or by enzyme linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA) of nucleocapsid protein (NP). The spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV is the major inducer of neutralizing antibodies. The receptor binding domain (RBD) in the S1 region of the spike glycoprotein contains multiple conformational epitopes that induces highly potent neutralizing antibodies. The genetically engineered attenuated form of the virus or viral vector vaccine encoding for the SARS-CoV spike glycoprotein has been shown to elicit protective immunity in vaccinated animals.

Conclusion: NP is the preferred target for routine detection of SARS-CoV infection by ELISA which is an economical method compared to other methods. The RBD of the spike glycoprotein is both a functional domain for cell receptor binding and also a major neutralizing determinant of SARS-CoV. The progress in evaluating a therapeutic or vaccine would depend on the avail ability of clinically relevant animal model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • Antigens, Viral / administration & dosage
  • Antigens, Viral / analysis
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • Canada
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Epitopes / genetics
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Neutralization Tests
  • Nucleocapsid Proteins / immunology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / genetics
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / immunology
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus / genetics
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus / immunology
  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus / isolation & purification*
  • Vero Cells
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / immunology
  • Viral Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Viral Proteins / immunology
  • Viral Vaccines / immunology
  • Viral Vaccines / therapeutic use*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, Viral
  • Epitopes
  • Nucleocapsid Proteins
  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • Viral Proteins
  • Viral Vaccines