SARS claims another life in Taiwan

TAIWANESE health officials have confirmed the island’s first SARS death in 16 days, as German scientists reported that an ingredient in liquorice has proven remarkably successful at combating the virus.

A Taiwanese healthcare worker became the seventh medical employee to succumb to the disease last Thursday, although her death has not yet been officially recorded as a SARS fatality.

The death, and six new infections, come at a time when Taiwan is trying to persuade the World Health Organisation to lift a travel advisory against the island which was issued in May.

Hong Kong, the region's second worst-hit area behind China, reported two new SARS deaths yesterday but no new cases, while China reported no new cases or deaths.

Hong Kong health chief Yeoh Eng-kiong yesterday told an international workshop on SARS he was confident the global fight against the virus would eventually be won.

"I am confident that by putting our heads together, we will ultimately prevail over the SARS virus," Yeoh told a group of international experts at the start of the two-day WHO event.

The workshop is intended to share knowledge on the clinical management of SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

At the same time, scientists in Germany published a study saying that Glycyrrhizin, a compound extracted from liquorice roots which has been previously explored in anti-viral research, was highly effective at stopping the SARS virus from reproducing.

It beat out four standard compounds used to block virus or tumorous cell replication ribavirin, 6-azauridine, pyrazofurin and mycophenolic acid.

The research is only a preliminary study and much further work is needed, assessing safety as well as effectiveness, before anyone can call glycyrrhizin a cure for the virus.

Even so, the findings are sufficiently positive that it should be taken seriously as a potential weapon in the fight against this disease, say the team, led by Jindrich Cinatl from Frankfurt University Medical School.

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