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Infectious disease: Genome sequence of the emerging coronavirus from China


February 4, 2020

The genome sequence of a virus associated with the respiratory disease outbreak in China, isolated from a patient working in the seafood market linked to the initial cases, is published in Nature today. Analysis of the genome indicates that the virus is closely related to a group of SARS-like coronaviruses previously identified in bats in China.

A severe respiratory disease recently reported in Wuhan, China, has now spread to other regions of China and several other countries, including the United States, Germany and Japan. The first patient was admitted to a hospital on 12 December 2019, and investigations have identified a seafood market, which also sold wild animals, in Wuhan as the potential source of the outbreak.

Yong-Zhen Zhang and colleagues studied a 41-year-old male market worker admitted to a hospital in Wuhan on 26 December 2019, who experienced symptoms of respiratory illness, including fever, chest tightness and a cough. A combination of antibiotic, antiviral and glucocorticoid therapy was administered; however, the patient exhibited respiratory failure and his condition did not improve after three days of treatment.

The authors performed genome sequencing on a sample of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (a lung secretion) collected from the patient. They identified a novel virus and found that the viral genome shared 89.1% nucleotide similarity with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-like coronaviruses from bats. It is not possible to conclude from the analysis of a single patient that this coronavirus is the cause of the current outbreak. Nevertheless, the findings of the authors have been corroborated by independent investigations in additional patients.

Sequence reads generated in this study are available at the NCBI Sequence Read Archive (SRA) database under the BioProject accession PRJNA603194. The complete genome sequence of WHCV have been deposited in GenBank under the accession numbers MN908947.

Springer Nature is a signatory on a joint statement committing to the sharing of research data and findings relevant to the novel coronavirus outbreak. More information is available here.

Article details
A novel coronavirus associated with human respiratory disease in China

doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2008-3

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