On 11 February 2020, whose Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tan Desai announced the official name “COVID-19” for diseases caused by the infection of the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) at a press conference held in Geneva, Switzerland, at WHO headquarters. On the same day, the International Committee on Virus Classification (ICTV) announced the official name of the new coronavirus: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV-2).
However, the confusion and controversy surrounding the name change has followed.
Chaotic naming process
In December 2019, “unexplained pneumonia” appeared in Wuhan, China. Due to the small number of initial infections, coupled with the lack of the corresponding name, the eight Wuhan doctors who noted the condition were discussed in the name of “confirmed SARS” and “suspected SARS”. Foreign research institutions that initially noticed the virus directly referred to the new coronavirus as “Wuhan coronavirus”.
On January 7, 2020, Shanghai (Fudan University affiliated) School of Public Health and School of Public Health, Wuhan Central Hospital of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, University of Sydney, Australia, and other institutions to the top academic journal Nature (Nature) presented a paper on the new coronavirus: A new coronavirus associated with respiratory diseases in China, which the research team called WH-Human 1 coronavirus (WHCV).
On January 12, the WHO named it “2019-nCoV” (2019 new coronavirus) after genome-wide sequencing confirmed as a new coronavirus. But what many people don’t know is that the name of the new coronavirus is temporary.
On February 7, the National Health and Health Commission issued a notice on the provisional naming of the new coronavirus pneumonia, and decided to temporarily name “pneumonia with the new coronavirus infection” (new coronavirus pneumonia), or “new coronavirus pneumonia”; NCP”.
On February 9, Shi Zhengli, a researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Professor Jiang Shibo of the Molecular Virology Laboratory of Fudan University’s School of Basic Medicine, suggested in a paper in the journal Virologica Sinica that the latest virus be called infectious acute respiratory syndrome ( Transmissible acute autoysyndrome, TARS-CoV).
On February 11, the WHO announced the official name “COVID-19” for the disease caused by the virus. For the new disease name, who explained that in COVID, CO for coronavirus ,VI for virus (virus), D for disesse (disease), 19 for 2019.
It is worth noting that COVID-19 is the name of the disease, not the name of the virus that causes the disease.
At the same time as the WHO launch, the ICTV expert group published detailed instructions on virus naming on its official website and on the pre-plated platform BioRxiv. A paper by the ICTV Coronary Virus Research Group shows. “In accordance with the systemic occurrence, classification and practice of the virus, the International Committee on Virus Classification formally identifies the virus as a sister virus of the coronavirus (SARS-CoVs) associated with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoVs) and designates it as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).”
In other words, the new coronavirus is a “close relative” of the SARS virus as we know it.
The controversy comes from this.
The controversy over the names of viruses and diseases began. Obviously the confusion comes from WHO and ICTV because they are named in completely different ways.
Of course SARS-CoV-2 is not a WHO-satisfactory name, and WHO has no plans to adopt it.
According to an email to Science magazine, a WHO spokesman wrote that from a risk communication perspective, the use of the SARS name can cause unnecessary fear for some people, especially in Asia, where the SARS outbreak was most affected in 2003, which could have unintended consequences. For this and other reasons, WHO will continue to use the names “Virus for COVID-19” or “COVID-19 Virus”.
According to John Ziebuhr, a virologist at Justus Liebig University Giessen, the new virus and the 2002-2003 SARS virus, based on recent genome sequencing, said The epidemic virus belongs to the same species and is known as SARS-related coronavirus. The virus may be novel to the rest of the world, so the commission’s approach is to attach a “2” to the virus isolated from patients in Wuhan and elsewhere, named SARS-CoV-2.
But Zebul also noted that WHO had informed him that the name did not match the disease and that the new virus had a lower infection rate, higher mortality rates and more often mild illness than SARS.
It is worth mentioning that if both names are recognized, then for the first time the name of the virus and disease is inconsistent. People have become accustomed to the same names as viruses and diseases, such as smallpox, which causes smallpox, and AIDS, which is caused by HIV. Suddenly everything is different because COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2.
A name is just a name.
Mike Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said he would not use the SARS-CoV-2 name, which he doesn’t think is an accurate name. In fact, a completely different disease (SARS) is confused with the disease (COVID-19).
But Zebul responded that many other researchers may start using the new name. “I have received a positive response from many colleagues, including Chinese scientists . . . It gives me confidence that the virus name SARS-CoV-2 will be widely accepted by the research community and others in a very short time. “
Jiang Shibo, a virologist at Fudan University in Shanghai, said that although the two viruses belong to the same species, SARS-CoV-2 spreads much faster than SARS-CoV, but has a lower fatality rate. The SARS-CoV virus subsided in the summer, but no one knows what the new virus will do in the coming months. People may think that there is a similar behavior and that precautions may stop when summer comes.
Paintings of the new coronavirus as it enters the lungs (Source: Science)
Sun Caijun, an infectious disease researcher at Sun Yat-sen University, said he preferred to name the virus the group acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (clustered respiratory acute syndrome coronavirus) because of its rapid spread. CARS-CoV) or rapid-spread respiratory syndrome coronavirus (rapid spread respiratory syndrome coronavirus).
Not everyone is bothered by the designation, however.
Long Lijun, a virologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says the name will not affect the public’s response to the outbreak. He said people just want the virus to disappear as soon as possible, “and the name is just a name.”
“Submarine Rules” named after previous viruses
So, in the past, how did all kinds of viruses be named?
In fact, most of the previously discovered disease-causing viruses were named with region names, named first to discover or isolate the virus.
MERS, for example, represents Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mersosyndrome), a virus first discovered in the Middle East in 2012.
The deadly Ebola virus, first discovered in the Democratic Republic of congo, is the name of a local river.
Similar new found diseases include Lyme disease, a small town in northeastern Connecticut.
In 2015, who established new rules for newly discovered pathogens or diseases. In a guidance document on the naming of new pathogens or diseases, the WHO asks scientists to be careful not to have unnecessary negative effects on national, economic, and local people when naming them.
According to the naming guidelines issued by the WHO, it is recommended that the name of a disease or pathogen include the following factors: gene description, symptom-related, affected population, severity or seasonality, etc. So the SARS name, fullname for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, is well-known, although it was named before the new 2015 rules, but well in line with WHO guidelines.