Researchers at the Institut Pasteur in France have become the second monitoring team in the world to sequence the entire novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) genome in an effort to better understand its origin and virulent properties.
Nearly 8,000 reported cases and hundreds of deaths have been reported in at least 19 countries since the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, last December, prompting the World Health Organization yesterday to declare a public health emergency after evidence of human-to-human transmission had surfaced. International healthcare experts have since prioritized research surrounding 2019-nCoV in an effort to understand and tame the global outbreak.
“Sequencing the genome of pathogens is crucial for the development of specific diagnostic tests and the identification of potential treatment options," explained Sylvie van der Werf, director of the National Reference Center (CNR) for Respiratory Viruses at the Institut Pasteur, in a statement.
Using the Institut Pasteur’s Mutualized Platform for Microbiology (P2M), researchers sequenced the genomes of three samples taken from three suspected cases of coronavirus in France, two patients who were in Paris and one in Bordeaux. The researchers say that the three samples had identical sequences. The findings have been submitted to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) platform, an international collaborative to share sequences and monitor the genetic evolution of viruses.
"Around twenty other sequences of the novel coronavirus genome have been obtained worldwide, and if we compare them with ours, we can see that they are all very close; there is not much diversity in the viruses analyzed, which suggests that coronavirus 2019-nCoV did not need to mutate in order to adapt and spread," continued Vincent Enouf, deputy director of the National Reference Center.
Earlier this week, researchers at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention sequenced 2019-nCoV from patient samples and similarly found it to be genetically distinct from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). The findings, which were reported in The Lancet, additionally suggest that the virus may have infected another animal acting as an intermediate host between bats and humans, adding to other work that finds 209-nCoV likely jumped from snakes to humans.
To stay up-to-date with the latest information, click here for a live map of the novel coronavirus outbreak.