It has been proved that severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is caused by SARS-associated coronavirus, a novel coronavirus. SARS originated in Guangdong Province, the People's Republic of China at the end of 2002. At present, it has spread to more than 33 countries or regions all over the world and affected 8 360 people and killed 764 by May 31,2003. Identification of the SARS causative agent and development of a diagnostic test are important. Detecting disease in its early stage, understanding its pathways of transmission and implementing specific prevention measures for the disease are dependent upon swift progress. Due to the efforts of the WHO-led network of laboratories testing for SARS, tests for the novel coronavirus have been developed with unprecedented speed. The genome sequence reveals that this coronavirus is only moderately related to other known coronaviruses. WHO established the definitions of suspected and confirmed and probable cases. But the laboratory tests and definitions are limited. Until now, the primary measures included isolation, ribavirin and corticosteroid therapy, mechanical ventilation, etc. Other therapies such as convalescent plasma are being explored. It is necessary to find more effective therapy. There still are many problems to be solved in the course of conquering SARS.