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Coronavirus Came to New York City From Europe, Not Asia, Genetic Study Shows

THURSDAY, April 9, 2020 (HealthDay News) — The new coronavirus has been circulating in New York City for longer than previously believed and most cases can be traced back to Europe, a new study reveals.

To come to that conclusion, genetic information about the coronavirus was gathered from nasal swab samples taken from 75 patients at Tisch Hospital, NYU Winthrop Hospital and NYU Langone Hospital Brooklyn, said the NYU Langone Health team.

The findings were submitted to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data, which promotes the international sharing of data on influenza infections and is now tracking the evolution of the new coronavirus.

“The value of determining viral local sequences is that — the more that become available — the better we can monitor the spread and severity of the disease — and the more it can clarify which drugs, vaccines or social interventions are effective here,” said sequencing team leader Adriana Heguy, director of NYU Langone’s Genome Technology Center.

“We’re just starting this project, but will soon be sequencing 192 viral samples per week with the goal of offering thousands of sequences for analysis in the near future,” Heguy added in an NYU Langone news release.

“This global effort does not just determine the code of a single version of the virus, but tracks how its genetic code changes as it moves through a population, and with what consequences,” explained Dr. Matija Snuderl, director of Molecular Pathology and Diagnostics at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City.

“As viruses evolve during transmission from person to person, their sequences can help researchers to zero in on the provenance, or place of origin, of that specific infection,” said Snuderl, who leads the clinical testing team.

“Slight changes in the genetic code of a virus that happen during transmission from person to person can help to guide the public health response,” added Matthew Maurano, from NYU Langone’s Institute for Systems Genetics and Department of Pathology.

— Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: NYU Langone Health, news release, April 9, 2020

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