A new virus from China: the five questions asked by the scientists (Nature, UK)

health Authorities around the world concerned about the outbreak of a mysterious virus that appeared last month in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Local officials have confirmed more than 500 cases of infection that causes respiratory disease and 17 deaths. Some cases are recorded in other parts of Asia, and one in the United States.

Researchers are rushing to study the virus in more detail and find out whether he is able to cause an outbreak like the epidemic of Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) that happened in 2002-03 in southern China and claimed the lives of 774 people in 37 countries. Both viruses are included in the broad family of coronaviruses, which is true of the common cold.

to Understand the nature of the outbreak particularly important because mass travel Friday for Chinese New year threaten to accelerate the further spread of the virus.

How the virus is transmitted?

the Most pressing question is how the virus spreads. Chinese authorities have confirmed that the proportion of cases caused by transmission from person to person, but whether it occurs on a regular basis, is still unclear.

“it is Important to understand whether the speed and efficiency of distribution of the level of an epidemic,” says Neil Ferguson (Neil Ferguson), a specialist in mathematical epidemiology from Imperial College in London. Monitoring the incidence of new cases of the onset of symptoms in each case will tell scientists how easily the virus is transmitted from person to person, and whether the flare potential to continue.

How deadly it is?

at First, scientists sounded the alarm because of the deadliness of Wuhan virus, because among the first infected, there were many cases of severe pneumonia. But the appearance of the lighter cases, part of the fears dispelled. At 17 cmartelinic outcomes on more than 500 cases of the virus, apparently, is not as deadly as SARS, which killed approximately 11% of the infected. But for the optimistic estimates, “still early,” said Ferguson.

Where it came from?

officials are developing a theory that the virus arose from an unknown animal, and then spread to people at large the Wuhan market animals and seafood. According to the researchers, the identification of the animal source of the virus will help to get a current flare under control and correctly assess her threat — and at the same time to prevent similar epidemics in the future. Genetic sequencing suggests that the Wuhan virus is linked to coronaviruses that bats carry, including the torso and his close relatives. However, these viruses carry other mammals — perhaps the torso was transferred to the human from the animal, the civet cat (aka civet).

On the now closed market, where the outbreak apparently originated, wild animals are also sold. According to Ben Cowling (Ben Cowling), epidemiologist from the University of Hong Kong, to identify the source will help tracking of similar cases on the market, as well as analyses of animals and their containers and cages on your genetic material.

What we know from the genetic sequence of the virus?

Genetic sequencing of coronavirus Wuhan gives an idea about its origin and dissemination. Laboratories in China and Thailand sequenced the genomes of at least 19 strains found in infected people, and posted it to the public. “This is an outstanding case, given that since the beginning of the work it’s only been two weeks,” says Trevor Bedford (Trevor Bedford), evolutionary GenetIR Research center cancer them. Fred Hutchinson in Seattle, Washington. It parses the sequence as they are received. “They do an excellent job and very quickly has established data exchange,” he adds.

Stop Wuhan virus

the Contextthe Work labScience: the world is preparing for a possible spread discovered in China коронавирусаЅсіепсе15.01.2020 Le Monde: coronavirus reawakens old suspicions in КитаеLe Monde22.01.Die Welt 2023: whether the world faces a pandemic of coronavirus?Die Welt23.01.2020 Bedford says that the most striking thing about the sequence is how similar they are to each other. “Diversity is extremely small. I expected more and I think others too.” The lack of genetic diversity suggests that the common ancestor of the various human strains appeared in November or December and spread quickly, not having much to mutate. Acquired mutations in each sequence of the virus differ. However, it adds the Bedford, from the genome while it is impossible to conclude whether there has been a rapid spread among humans or in the animal Kingdom. To the same conclusion evolutionary geneticist Andrew Rambo (Andrew Rambaut) from the University of Edinburgh in the UK published its analysis on January 20.

Bedford said that the new viral sequence will allow to conclude whether the majority of the cases the repeated spread of the virus from animals to humans with limited transmission between humans, or the virus initially spread to a small number of people, and most of the current cases due to secondary transmission from person to person. “I guess this will be a major goal of epidemiologists around the worldRA,” he says. To determine the degree of transfer will help the genetic data of animals from which virus was transmitted to people, concludes Bedford.

the rapid spreading of Wuhan virus?

Still, he says, such sequences will help to identify genetic changes due to which the virus has spread from animals to humans. And if flash will be delayed due to extensive transmission between people, Bedford and other genetics will be looking for signs of further mutations by which the virus was efficiently spread among humans.

the Bedford warns that these conclusions are preliminary because there was insufficient data. “The situation will change significantly if we add the number of key samples,” he says.

is There a cure for coronavirus?

Proven effective drugs for the treatment of SARS or other coronavirus infections in humans and there are no certified vaccines to prevent them.

a Group of employees of Chinese national engineering research centre for the study of new drugs in Beijing is developing methods of treatment by blocking receptors on human cells through which the infection occurs. Comparison of the sequences of SARS and Chinese new viruses published January 16, showed that they bind to the same receptor. The team expects to resume work on methods of treatment of SARS and adapt them to counter the latest virus.

the new York times contain estimates of the solely foreign media and do not reflect the views of the editorial Board of the new York times.