SARS virus origin may be discovered

It is related to cats, but not really a cat. And it comes from the same family as a mongoose.

Today the civet cat, a delicacy eaten by some Chinese, is being pegged by Hong Kong researchers as the possible source of the SARS virus. The researchers had previously said SARS came from animals, but they had not been sure which kind.

Researchers say they successfully isolated a type of coronavirus that causes SARS in an animal called the masked palm civet in China's Guangdong province, a known center of the outbreak. The researchers believe the SARS virus jumped straight from civets to people, though they acknowledge other animals may have been involved.

Scientists say the disease might have spread to people while they were raising, slaughtering or cooking the cats, not from eating them.

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