Rapid response to the new coronavirus shows medical progress since SARS outbreak

Scientists believe the new virus, which is spreading rapidly in central China, first appeared in early December,media reported. By 31 December, public health officials reported that patients in their cities were infected with a virus that was not known to the World Health Organization at the time. Two weeks later, scientists isolated and published a genetic sequence of the virus, identifying it as a new virus called coronavirus, which is part of the family of viruses that cause SARS outbreaks.

Rapid response to the new coronavirus shows medical progress since SARS outbreak


The rapid response to the outbreak highlights the progress made in biotechnology and public health responses to new viruses. By contrast, the SARS virus appeared in November 2002, but it was not until April 2003 that scientists obtained a complete genetic sequence; It took Brazil about a year to confirm that the Zika virus was the cause of the outbreak.

“Research is progressing very quickly,” said Kristian Andersen, director of infectious disease genomics at the Scripps Research Translational Institute. “Although it’s china’s flu season, the whole process is moving very quickly, which may make it more complicated than usual. Clinicians must first figure out that the disease they are seeing is unusual, not just caused by normal flu. “I was impressed by the speed of the whole reaction. It’s very difficult to realize that you have an outbreak and then be able to isolate the virus, sequence and share the data. It’s not easy. “

Epidemiologists are concerned that the virus may pose a serious threat to their health. So far, more than 500 people have been infected with the new virus and 17 people have died. In addition, confirmed cases have been reported in South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, and Macau, China, and one case has been reported in Washington, D.C. The virus can cause high fever and breathing difficulties in severe patients, while slightly mild patients look more like a common cold. It is understood that the early cases are related to a seafood market in Wuhan.

This response shows that China has made progress in the public health system since SARS. At the time, the local infrastructure was limited. But after the outbreak, billions of dollars were spent across the country on infectious disease facilities and reporting systems. In addition, China reported the new virus to WHO almost immediately.

“China, of course, has made great progress compared to the SARS outbreak. It may have one of the best public health systems in the world,” Andersen said. He points out that the U.S. might be able to respond as quickly as it can in the face of a new virus, but not sooner.

“The identification of pathogens was quickly identified, which shows China’s capabilities now,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom said at a news conference. Sequencing is going on very quickly. What’s more, it was quickly shared. That’s why South Korea, Japan and Thailand are able to diagnose cases so quickly. “

Advances in genetic sequencing technology have also helped scientists quickly identify the new virus. Andersen says it’s much easier to figure out the full sequence of the virus than it was a few years ago.

Once scientists have a complete genetic sequence of the virus, they can quickly develop a new type of coronavirus to diagnose suspected patients. WHO published these test results on 17 January. “It’s really a domino effect,” said Timothy Sheahan, a coronavirus expert and assistant professor at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina. “

This includes the study of new coronaviruses. Once the sequence is published, scientists can send it to the company that makes the synthetic virus. “We can synthesize the virus outside of China and study its biological properties without relying on someone else’s package, ” she said. “

Andersen noted that information obtained shortly after the new coronavirus infection in humans may help officials begin to control the virus by letting them know what they are dealing with and allowing diagnostic tests for confirmed cases to be developed. “It’s helpful to have the ability to quickly identify these viruses and identify you with new ones,” he said. But he added that speed can only do that, especially when the virus can spread directly from person to person.

There are still many unknowns about the new virus, including the speed of human-to-human transmission or how easily it is transmitted. That’s a key issue, Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Disease Control and Respiratory Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a press release. An easy-to-spread virus could lead to a wider epidemic.

The emergence of this new virus is consistent with the human coronavirus transmission that has occurred since the turn of the century: SARS spread in 2002 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012. Coronary viruses are common in animals and can be found in most wild species. Before SARS, however, infected coronaviruses caused only mild respiratory diseases. Public health experts and virologists have learned a lot over the past 20 years in the fight against SARS and MERS, which can be applied to current outbreaks. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s manager of new and re-emerging diseases, said in a press release: “The progress we have made in MERS over the past seven years may apply here. “

Importantly, the first two coronaviruses are also dangerous.

“SARS has taught the world a lot, one of which is that coronaviruses can appear and cause serious human diseases,” Sheahan said. “