New SARS virus linked to bats

Updated 23 November 2012

New SARS virus linked to bats

PARIS: A novel strain of the deadly SARS virus that sparked a health scare this year is closely related to a virus found in Asian bats, according to a study published on Tuesday.
Scientists in the Netherlands said they had sequenced the genetic code of a viral sample taken from a 60-year-old man whose death in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in June triggered fears that Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was returning in a new guise.
The new strain, called HCoV-EMC/2012, is part of a viral family called coronavirus, but in a specific category called betacoronavirus.
Its closest known cousins are a strain found in lesser bamboo bats (Tylonycteris pachypus) and another found in Japanese house bats, Pipistrellus abramus.
“The virus is most closely related to viruses in bats in Asia, and there are no human viruses closely related to it,” said Ron Fouchier of the prestigious Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.
“Therefore we speculate that it comes from an animal source,” he said, noting that Pipistrellus bats are present in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries.
An epidemic of SARS erupted in China in 2002, eventually claiming around 800 deaths in some 30 countries.
Bats were linked with a novel strain of SARS found in 2005. Hong Kong researchers found a natural “reservoir” of it in Chinese horseshoe bats.
Two other men have also fallen sick in the latest SARS episode.
One is a Qatari man who had been in Saudi Arabia and is being treated at a hospital in London.
There is 99.6-99.7 percent similarity between his strain and the virus sequenced in the Netherlands, said Fouchier in a press release.
“They are the same species,” he said, adding that the difference was sufficient to suggest that the men had been infected by different sources.
The other is a Saudi man whose case was announced earlier this month by the Saudi health ministry, which on November 4 described him as cured.
The genomic sequence of that virus is not yet available, Fouchier said.
The WHO said that what set the new virus apart from SARS was that it causes rapid kidney failure.
Fears rose last month over the potential spread of the virus during the Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. But the kingdom’s health ministry repeatedly reassured pilgrims that no epidemic outbreaks had been registered.
The new paper appears in mBio, an online journal of the American Society for Microbiology.


5 reasons to add spinach to your diet

Updated 08 August 2020

5 reasons to add spinach to your diet

DUBAI: Devinder Bains, personal trainer and nutrition coach at Fit Squad DXB, shares her advice on the superfoods that will help you lead a longer and healthier life…

If you want a food that’s cheap, versatile and packed with nutrients, then you can’t go wrong with spinach. Throw a handful into a fruit or vegetable smoothie, cook it as a side dish with meat or knock out a saag curry as a main and reap the health rewards listed below.

Improved eye health

Spinach is high in the antioxidant pigments zeaxanthin and lutein, which protect your eyes from damage caused by sunlight. They also work to prevent macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss in the elderly. Studies have also shown that zeaxanthin and lutein play a part in preventing cataracts.

Healthy pregnancy

As spinach is packed with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate and potassium, it’s the perfect food for pregnant women. Leafy greens are also rich in powerful immune-boosting antioxidants and contain plant compounds that may help prevent constipation, a common problem among pregnant women.

There are plenty of health rewards to be reaped from the super food. Shutterstock

Blood clotting

One spinach leaf contains over half of your daily requirements of vitamin K1, which is essential for healthy bones. It also helps white blood cells to clot effectively, preventing you from bleeding out when you are injured. Anyone who is taking blood-thinning medication such as Warfarin should speak to their doctor before increasing their intake of spinach or other leafy greens.

Healthy teeth

This super green is high in catenoids, which our bodies turn into vitamin A. This vitamin plays a key role in keeping gums healthy and in building tooth enamel. Spinach is also high in calcium, which helps harden your enamel, strengthen your jawbone, and build strong bones. In fact, spinach is also rich in vitamin D, dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium and vitamin C, all of which are important nutrients for bone health.

Healthy hair

This is where vitamin A comes in again, as it is necessary for sebum production to keep hair moisturized, helping it to look glossy and grow. It can also help reduce hair loss. Vitamin A is actually used in the growth of all bodily tissues, so it is essential for healthy skin as well.