Royal Society Publishing


The emergence of new viral infections of man requires the development of robust diagnostic tests that can be applied in the differential diagnosis of acute illness, or to determine past exposure, so as to establish the true burden of disease. Since the recognition in April 2003 of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS–CoV) as the causative agent of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), enormous efforts have been applied to develop molecular and serological tests for SARS which can assist rapid detection of cases, accurate diagnosis of illness and the application of control measures. International progress in the laboratory diagnosis of SARS–CoV infection during acute illness has led to internationally agreed World Health Organization criteria for the confirmation of SARS. Developments in the dissection of the human immune response to SARS indicate that serological tests on convalescent sera are essential to confirm SARS infection, given the sub–optimal predictive value of molecular detection tests performed during acute SARS illness.