Watching the virus mutate in real time
February 1, 2020 6:12 AM Subscribe
When the story of the coronavirus (2019-nCOV) is finally written, it might well become a template for the utopian dream of open science. As detailed accounts of the first cases have been published in prominent medical journals, it's clear that scientists were among the first responders at hospitals in Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the outbreak.
Because the viral genomes had been publicly released, when a 65-year-old man and his 27-year-old son were admitted to a hospital in Vietnam on Jan. 22, doctors there were able to identify the virus, isolate the patients, backtrack their travel history and monitor 28 close contacts, none of whom have developed symptoms.
By then evolutionary biologist Trevor Bedford had already used the growing database of viral genomes to conclude this virus made the leap from animals to humans sometime in mid-November, an astonishingly precise estimate that helped scientists understand how long the virus had been infecting people.
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