Search for a possible animal reservoir of the SARS – A joint mission of WHO, OIE and FAO to China

A joint mission of WHO, OIE and FAO to China

August 2003 – A joint mission of the WHO and the Government of China, seconded by the OIE and the FAO, took place in China from 10 to 22 August 2003 on the subject of "A possible animal reservoir of the SARS coronavirus and the risks associated with transmission to humans".

The mission team consisted of 15 experts, 8 international scientists and 7 national scientists, and was supported by the WHO’s China office, with the agreement of the Chinese authorities.

The OIE was represented by Dr François Moutou, a specialist in epidemiology and zoology.

The aim of the mission was to help the Chinese government review the research conducted to date and identify areas that require further research.

Among its recommendations, the team of experts highlighted the need for stronger national regulations in the farming, trade and consumption of wildlife, and stricter and more widespread serological monitoring of the SARS virus, in domestic and wild animals as well as in humans. In order to control the virus, it is essential to establish how it was able, if this was indeed the case, to cross the species barrier. The standardisation of diagnostic methods applied to animals in China also needs to be rapidly implemented.

Lastly, the mission pointed out that the communication and coordination of research efforts at both an international and a national level are crucial if we are to further our knowledge in this vitally important field, namely the link between animal and human diseases.

For its part, the OIE is pleased to note the continued strengthening of collaboration between the medical and veterinary scientific communities aimed at providing greater safeguards for public health.