A worldwide outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) had been reported. Over 8439 SARS cases and 812 SARS-related deaths were reported to the World Health Organization from 32 countries around the world up to 5 July 2003. The mechanism of transmission of SARS-CoV has been limited only to close contacts with patients. Attention was focused on possible transmission by the sewage system because laboratory studies showed that patients excreted coronavirus RNA in their stools in Amoy Gardens in Hong Kong. To explore whether the stool of SARS patients or the sewage containing the stool of patients would transmit SARS-CoV or not, we used a style of electropositive filter media particle to concentrate the SARS-CoV from the sewage of two hospitals receiving SARS patients in Beijing, as well as cell culture, semi-nested RT–PCR and sequencing of genes to detect and identify the viruses from sewage. There was no live SARS-CoV detected in the sewage in these assays. The nucleic acid of SARS-CoV was found in the sewage before disinfection from both hospitals by PCR. After disinfection, SARS-CoV RNA could be detected from some samples from the 309th Hospital of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, but not from Xiao Tang Shan Hospital after disinfection. In this study, we found that the virus can survive for 14 days in sewage at 4°C, 2 days at 20°C, and its RNA can be detected for 8 days though the virus had been inactivated. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that the RNA of SARS-CoV could be detected from the concentrates of sewage of both hospitals receiving SARS patients before disinfection and occasionally after disinfection though there was no live SARS-CoV; thus much attention should be paid to the treatment of stools of patients and the sewage of hospitals receiving SARS patients.

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