The explosion of COVID-19 cases in the New York City area largely resulted from infected patients who flew in from Europe, say genome scientists.
NYU Langone Health researchers said they analyzed 75 samples from patients diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at New York-area hospitals last month.
About two thirds of the samples appear to have European origins, says Adriana Heguy, director of the Center for Genomic Technology at the medical center. The virus appears to have been imported into New York from England and several European countries, including France, Austria and the Netherlands, he says.RELATED
Genome sequencers can roughly correlate how a virus is spreading around the world by examining small mutations in a pathogen gene sequence as it is passed from person to person. In the case of the coronavirus, whose RNA consists of approximately 30,000 genetic bases, or letters, it mutates approximately twice a month.
Those minor mutations tend not to change the potency of the virus, but they do provide clues for genetic detectives to plot how they subtly change over time, allowing them to create extensive family trees, or phylogenies, that show how a person’s coronavirus has spread. part of the world to the next.
Origin of england
One of the first cases sequenced by Heguy’s team, collected in early March, came from a Long Island resident with no travel history whose viral genome correlated with a strain circulating in England. This suggests that the patient had contact with someone who had brought the virus from the UK.
The findings suggest that even after the Trump administration imposed travel restrictions from China, the virus continued to infiltrate the most populous city in the United States. through flights from Europe.
Not all virus samples from New York have European origins.
Some appear to have come from the US west coast, while others appear to be directly linked to Asia. That indicates that there are numerous transmission chains in the metropolitan area, as would be expected in such a large outbreak.
The NYU Genomic Center had previously focused on the sequencing of common diseases like cancer and heart conditions. But in early March he went on to work almost exclusively on COVID-19.
“We basically turned our labs into COVID-19 labs overnight,” said Heguy. “That is all we are doing right now.”