Researchers at the Groningen University Hospital in the Netherlands and the First Military Medical University in Guangzhou of China on Friday said their findings emphasised the need for more stringent infection-control measures.

"There is a strong possibility that SARS could be spread via water and skin contact. Our findings may benefit a lot of people … and make them be very cautious about contact with SARS patients," said Dr Harry van Goor of the hospital in Netherlands.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) first emerged in southern China in 2002. It infected more than 8,000 people in nearly 30 countries and killed nearly 800.

Although the outbreak was brought under control, public health experts say it could re-emerge.

Chinese findings

The Chinese scientists in Guangzhou analysed tissues from four people who had died of the infection and produced findings similar to those of their Dutch colleagues.

"As a result of our work we recommend new infection control measures, which include getting patients to wear gloves, disposable gowns and eye protection … and to avoid kissing or touching other people," the Journal of Pathology quoted Dr Yanqing Ding, the researcher who led the Chinese study, as saying.

Symptoms of SARS include high fever accompanied by a cough, shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing.

China, Hong Kong and Canada were most severely affected by the virus, which was spread around the world by international air travellers.