In the space of eight months, the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, COVID-19, have dominated the work of thousands of researchers in an unprecedented global effort.
In a series of editorials, we look back at key scientific findings that have revealed important characteristics of the virus and COVID-19, including emerging approaches to treatment and prevention. We begin, this week, with how the virus was identified; the molecular details of its mechanism of infection; how it transmits between people; and the many ways in which it affects the human body.
Cracking the virus code
When an outbreak of a disease similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) emerged in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019, researchers suspected that a new coronavirus had spread to humans. Many of the first cases to be identified were linked to a single live-animal market in the city.
Researchers in China immediately began working to isolate and sequence the virus. When the…
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