Experts believe the virus took a route other than the index patient's coughs The World Health Organisation (WHO) will announce today that the Metropole Hotel Sars outbreak - which triggered the global spread of the disease - may have involved a mode of transmission other than simply the coughing and sneezing of the so-called index patient. An expert team is expected to reveal details of its findings later today after a three-week investigation into possible environmental factors which may be linked to a series of other Sars outbreaks in Hong Kong over the past few weeks. A source close to the Department of Health said yesterday the WHO team had discovered that the Metropole Hotel outbreak may have involved an alternative means of infection. In March, the Department of Health said it believed the disease was spread when infected Guangdong professor Liu Jianlun sneezed and coughed in the waiting area outside the lifts at the Metropole Hotel in Waterloo Road, Mongkok, during his stay in February. He infected tourists from Singapore and Canada, who went on to carry the virus across the world. He also infected a man whose illness triggered the Hong Kong outbreak. The source said: 'The WHO team has found new evidence concerning the means of transmission of the virus in the Metropole Hotel. The government's thinking was it was coughs and sneezes in the lift area. The team is not saying that was not true. But the WHO investigation has found another major means of transmission.' The source said the hotel did not share the same channel of infection as Amoy Gardens, where faulty sewage pipes were blamed for the outbreak in which 329 people were infected and 35 residents died. The source added the WHO team generally endorsed the government's conclusions about the outbreak at Amoy Gardens. A spokeswoman for the Metropole confirmed that the WHO team had conducted investigations at the hotel, but said none of the hotel's 300 employees had come down with Sars so far. Gabriel Leung, a professor of community medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said: 'Different settings may give rise to different possible means of infection such as the use of a nebuliser at the 8A ward at the Prince of Wales Hospital which started the [Hong Kong] outbreak, aerosol infection from the process of intubation at Tuen Mun Hospital and now the oxygen masks at Queen Mary Hospital.'' However, he believed droplets and physical contact remained the major channels of infection in the community.