“Lethal viruses tend to flare up and disappear. The fact that the outbreak is over does not mean we can pretend it’s not a problem, or that it’s not coming back. But by identifying the link between SARS and the human population, we can take steps to break that link.”

-Mary Pearl

In 2002, amidst the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Pearl – President of the Wildlife Trust, and leading researcher for the development of conservation medicine to uncover health links between humans and wildlife – stressed the need to explore the cause of diseases accrued from animals and their adverse effects on humans. The directive was aimed at preventing the catastrophic outcome of such a disease if it were to ever resurface.

The SARS coronavirus affected over 8000 people worldwide, with the death toll standing at around 800 upon its containment in 2004. The disease, believed to have originated from bats, was first identified in the Guangdong province of Southern China. It quickly spread to other regions within Asia, Europe, and the Americas. The disease spread primarily through contact from person to person via respiratory secretions. Its symptoms included fever, headache, body ache, and diarrhea, with patients later developing a dry cough and pneumonia.

In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO), listed the SARS coronavirus as the probable cause of an upcoming epidemic. In 2019, another much deadlier form of the virus, the SARS coronavirus 2, also known simply as the coronavirus, caused and continues to cause a worldwide pandemic.