Newsletter No. 222

CUHK Traces Genetic Fingerprint of Coronavirus T he Chines e University' s SAR S researc h team has revealed the genetic fingerprin t of the coronaviru s associate d with th e majo r outbreak a t the Prince o f Wales Hospita l afte r studying th e virus fro m 1 1 patients. Throug h this research , th e tea m obtaine d scientifi c evidence showin g that the virus i s mutating at a rapid rat e an d that th e geneti c signatur e o f the viru s change s eve n betwee n it s passag e from on e wave o f infection t o the next . The stud y als o revealed the presence o f a coronavirus tha t i s unrelate d t o th e variou s genetic signature s o f viruse s responsibl e fo r the Princ e o f Wales Hospita l outbreak . Thi s indicates tha t more than one coronavirus typ e is present i n Hong Kong . By comparin g thes e new dat a with viru s sequences reporte d fro m othe r part s o f th e world, th e tea m postulate d a model fo r th e evolution o f the virus. The model predicts th e existence o f a n ancestra l typ e o f th e coronavirus whic h ha s a distinc t geneti c signature. Searc h for thi s ancestor i s expecte d to she d more ligh t o n the origin o f SARS . The SAR S researc h team comprises ove r 30 academic and research staff from the CUHK Departments o f Biochemistry , Chemica l Pathology, Med i c i n e an d Therapeutics , M i c r o b i o l o g y, an d Surgery . On e o f it s endeavours is to try to understand the evolution of the coronavirus associate d with SARS . Architecture Department Shows 'Wind Curtain' Effect Quickens Spread of SARS in Amoy Garden A detailed computationa l flui d dynamics stud y o f the Amoy Garde n complex foun d that the position o f Blocks E and F, the ones hardest hit by SARS , relative to each other and relative to the prevailing wind direction , leads to a 'wind curtain' effect which seals off the reentrant area , or the 'ligh t well' . Thi s stagnate s horizontal air-flow , which als o means that virus-laden droplet s released into the reentrant area will have a high possibility o f remaining in that area and hence, o f spreading vertically an d contaminating othe r floors o f the block . The stud y als o shows that the addition of a simple panel or spoile r a t a strategic positio n i n the reentrant area would disrupt the 'wind curtain ' sufficiently s o that this effect would no longe r be operative. This would provid e a retro-fitting solutio n t o man y buildings. The finding s o f th e stud y indicate that the high risk of SARS in Blocks E and F was due to the convergence o f a numbe r o f factors — sewag e problems , U - shaped tubes , an d th e ' w i n d curtain' effect . Th e departmen t believes that buildings without the same topography ar e unlikely t o be equall y susceptible , s o th e minds o f th e majorit y o f th e community shoul d be put at ease. Donations in Support of the Battle Against SARS A t th e Car e fo r Medic s presentatio n ceremony hel d on 6th May a t the Sha w College Lectur e Theatre Gallery, 1,00 0 bottles of HERBSnSENSES Cordyceps were presented by Ms . Kell y Cheng , chairperso n an d chie f executive office r o f GreaterChina Technolog y Group Ltd. and University Counci l member, to Prof. P.C. Leung, chairman of the Management Committee of the Institute of Chinese Medicine. Prof. Leung received the preparation on behalf of the frontlin e medica l staf f of the Princ e o f Wales Hospital for whom i t was meant. This was followed by the presentation of a multi-fluorescence flo w cytometer, also by Ms . Cheng, t o th e Departmen t o f Chemica l Pathology whic h wa s represente d b y Prof . Christopher Lam , chairman of the department . The multi-fluorescenc e flo w cytomete r i s a versatile diagnostic and research equipment. Its clinical applications include measuring the cel l number o f T and B lymphocyt e subpopulation s in blood samples of patients an d investigatin g the activatio n an d function o f immun e cells , thereby guidin g dru g therapy t o suppres s th e exaggerated immune response in disease. The ceremon y opene d with a welcoming address by Prof. Ambrose King, vice-chancellor of the University, and an address by Ms. Cheng, and ended with the presentation of a souvenir by Prof. King to Ms. Cheng and a group photo. Anti-SARS Activities A Quick Run-through •Community Care and Service • Seminar s to address challenge s faced b y home s for the elderly and their frontlin e workers wer e hel d o n 3r d an d 10t h Ma y 2003 , attractin g som e 30 0 participant s in all . Th e function s wer e organize d b y th e Departmen t o f Socia l Wor k i n collaboration wit h th e Centr e fo r Healt h Educatio n an d Healt h Promotio n an d the Schoo l o f Chines e Medicine . • 'We Car e Foundation ' deliver s fre e anti-SARS package s t o frontline cleaner s o n four successiv e Saturday s fro m 3r d Ma y fo r preventiv e care . • Fre e Chines e medicin e consultatio n i n Ta i P o o n 2n d Ma y b y th e Schoo l o f Chinese Medicine . • Provisio n o f toni c sou p formul a fo r Po k O i Hospital' s Anti-SAR S Campaig n o n 22nd Apri l b y th e Schoo l o f Chines e Medicine . • Deliver y o f healt h talk on SARS preventio n from a Chinese medicin e perspectiv e at H o Shing Nursin g Hom e fo r the Elderl y b y Mr . Chan Yun-ka , part-tim e lecture r at th e Schoo l o f Chines e Medicine . • Provisio n o f herba l formul a t o Sing Tao Daily an d th e Neighbourhoo d Advice - Action Counci l b y th e Schoo l o f Chines e Medicine . • Th e distributio n o f fre e booklet s o n menopaus e an d th e organizatio n o f fre e bone mas s x-ra y examinatio n b y th e Centr e fo r Researc h an d Promotio n o f Women's Healt h fo r mother s i n Hon g Kon g o n Mother' s Da y 2003 , a s a gestur e of concer n durin g th e SAR S epidemic . • Talk s o n SAR S fo r th e communit y b y staf f o f th e Centr e fo r Researc h an d Promotion o f Women' s Health . •Education • Te n shor t courses , tw o workshops , an d fou r seminar s offere d b y th e Schoo l o f Continuing Studie s o n SARS . • Th e production of learning material s for children recoverin g from SARS in hospital s and student s undergoin g hom e confinemen t b y th e Schoo l an d Universit y Partnership fo r Educationa l Renewa l Projec t o f the Facult y o f Education . • Adoptio n b y th e Hon g Kon g Schoo l Ne t o f th e arithmeti c teachin g materia l (primary level ) developed b y teachers i n the Facult y o f Educatio n an d publishe d by Th e Chines e Universit y Pres s a s a n Arithmeti c Packag e fo r onlin e teachin g purposes durin g clas s suspension . •Counselling • Launc h o f a limite d hotlin e servic e (225 2 8839 ) b y th e Centr e fo r Researc h an d Promotion o f Women' s Healt h fo r it s members , thei r familie s an d friend s o n psychological counsellin g an d communit y educatio n i n relatio n t o SAR S fro m 2.30 t o 5 p.m . o n Monday , Tuesday , an d Friday . •Expert Opinion • Exper t advic e o n clinica l thermometer s an d bod y temperatur e b y Prof . Cha n Kin-shing o f th e Departmen t o f Chemistr y publishe d i n Sing Tao Daily • A visual databas e o f SARS-related housin g estate s i n Hong Kon g create d b y Prof . Edward N g o f the Departmen t o f Architecture; versio n on e launche d o n 4t h May . •Publications and Research Studies • Publicatio n i n The Lancet on 29t h Apri l o f articl e 'Clinica l Presentation s an d Outcomes o f Sever e Acut e Respirator y Syndrom e i n Children ' writte n b y Prof . T.F. Fo k an d othe r member s o f th e Facult y o f Medicine . • Publicatio n i n The Lancet on 3r d Ma y o f commentar y 'SARS ; Experienc e a t Prince o f Wales Hospital , Hon g Kong ' writte n b y Prof . Bria n Tomlinson an d Prof . Clive Cockra m o f th e Departmen t o f Medicin e an d Therapeutics . • A surve y conducte d b y th e Departmen t o f Economic s i n Apri l o n th e public' s assessment o f Hon g Kong' s econom y showe d tha t publi c confidenc e i n th e economy ha d bee n dampene d b y the SARS outbreak. The consumer moo d inde x had bee n dropping , th e publi c wa s ver y pessimisti c abou t th e overal l economi c future of Hong Kong , an d desire for consumption registere d a persistent decrease . 1 No. 222 19thMay 2003