This article from the New York Times describes how the ability of scientists to determine the genetic code of SARS-CoV-2 has allowed them to understand the spread of disease locally and around the globe. Viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 make copies of themselves in cells of the human body. During that process, the virus can make mistakes as it attempts to replicate, and does so at a fairly constant rate. Using this knowledge, researchers were able to trace the source of the first confirmed US case of COVID-19 in a Seattle man, to his recent travel from Wuhan, China. Sequencing also allowed researchers to determine that virus circulating in the earliest days in California likely came from a separate introduction from China as opposed to a continued transmission chain from Seattle. In contrast, the genetic code of the majority of SARS-CoV-2 isolates from New York patients suggests that virus was introduced from several locations, including Europe, Asia and other parts of the United States. In contrast to similar viruses, SARS-CoV-2 appears to mutate relatively slowly – this is good news for vaccine development for COVID-19. The less it mutates or changes, the more likely it is that one vaccine could successfully immunize or protect the population against the virus. In addition, there is no scientific evidence that the mutations that is has acquired have significantly changed viral behavior thus far. Continued sequencing of additional genomes from all over the world will surely continue to be a major source of important information.
Please click here to view the original article from The New York Times.