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Modeling predicts SARS-CoV-2 circulating faster than previously thought

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The end of December is considered to be the beginning of COVID-19. It was then that the Wuhan City Health Commission reported a group of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. From there, the virus is identified, sequenced, and the rest, as they say, is history. But is this certainly the first time SARS-CoV-2 first appeared in humans? Or could it have been circulating in the population at the beginning of the year?

Researchers sought to answer this question by simulating the early stages of SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks in Wuhan, China. They concluded that the virus was likely to circulate faster than described, perhaps even in mid-October 2019.

This work is published in Science, In the treatise, “Timing of SARS-CoV-2 probands in Hubei.

It is unknown when SARS-CoV-2 first began to infect humans. The new study, led by Dr. Joel Wortheim, a part-time professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, found that the first described cluster of COVID-19 related to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in late December 2019 was COVID from early December- Nineteen cases had no market connection, marking the beginning of a pandemic. In addition, a newspaper report by the Chinese government details a daily retrospective COVID-19 diagnosis dating back to November.

Perhaps to more accurately estimate the timing of the first SARS-CoV-2 case in Hubei, China, Jonathan Pekar, a PhD student at the University of California, San Diego, used a combined approach. Together with a colleague, he first applied Bayesian molecular clock phylogeny to estimate the timing of the latest common ancestor of sampled strains of the virus. More specifically, they adopted a “coalescence framework for combining retrospective molecular clock inference.” They combined it with a forward epidemiological simulation to determine when SARS-CoV-2 could have been circulating before the era of the latest common ancestor.

Based on their simulations, the authors predict that the period from mid-October to mid-November 2019 will be defined as the plausible interval at which the first case of SARS-CoV-2 appeared in Hubei Province. did.

Their simulations considered that the first SARS-CoV-2 variant to emerge might be less compatible than the more widespread variant. Therefore, the authors simulated a two-phase epidemic in which the first case was infected with an extinct, incompatible mutant, but not before the development of a persistent mutant strain.

By characterizing the potential dynamics of the virus before it was discovered, the authors found that “more than two-thirds of zoonotic diseases such as SARS-CoV-2 are self-limiting. , Extinguishes without causing a pandemic. “

They added that the estimated prevalence of the virus was too low to be detected for weeks or months. By the time COVID-19 was first identified, the virus had become established in Wuhan. This delay highlights the difficulty of monitoring pathogens for zoonotic diseases that are highly contagious and have moderate mortality.

Understanding when SARS-CoV-2 emerged is to assess current approaches to monitoring pathogens for new zoonotic diseases and to understand the failure of early containment and mitigation efforts for COVID-19. It is important.

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