America in general and New York City in particular is seeing the biggest onslaught of the current pandemic and many Americans want to call it a Chinese virus.
But, a scientist says that the virus strain came to New York from Europe and it began spreading as early as February before the tests started. Adriana Heguy, a geneticist at NYU Grossman School of Medicine has led the research in this regard.
“It’s very interesting that so far, the majority seem to be coming from Europe, and this is in part I think because there was a focus on stopping travel from China,” she was quoted by the media.
The findings also tie in with a spate of mysterious pneumonia cases that New York physicians were treating before large scale testing began in the city, she added.
Heguy and her team determined the viral sequences of 75 samples taken from the nasal swabs of patients at Tisch Hospital, NYU Winthrop Hospital and NYU Langone Hospital Brooklyn. All organisms mutate over time, but so-called RNA viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 introduce errors in each cycle of their replication.
If, as scientists suspect, the virus is seasonal and returns in a smaller second wave, they can immediately sequence its genome from infected patients, then take samples from the neighbourhood where they live to determine if there is a community outbreak. This in turn can help more targeted social interventions.