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On 17 March 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) established a multicentre network of leading laboratories from 10 countries, to research the aetiology of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and to develop a robust and reliable diagnostic test. The methods utilised and the results of the network member laboratories have been shared on a secure web site and via frequent teleconferences, enabling investigative approaches for detecting the causative agent of SARS to be continually refined and to develop a diagnostic assay. Initial microbiological investigations aimed to detect a range of viral and bacterial agents known to cause atypical pneumonia. The methodologies employed included electron microscopy (EM), immunofluorescent antibody tests (IFA), viral and bacterial cultures, and a range of molecular based assays.


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