Nature - What you need to know about the Wuhan coronavirus
Nature video on the Wuhan coronavirus basics

Nature - What you need to know about the Wuhan coronavirus

2020, Jan 25    

The Nature scientific journal released a 3-minute video to introduce some key facts about the Wuhan coronavirus. [Note: Some information, e.g. case numbers, confidence in possible animal source and drug treatment possibilities, are getting updated as of 2020/01/27]


A new type of coronavirus emerged in the city of Wuhan in China. Within weeks, it has spread to several countries and has killed multiple people.

What are coronaviruses

Corona refers to the virus’ distinctive shape. corona (n.) garland, chaplet, laurel, or wreath They are a large group, common among mammals and birds. In rare cases like this one, they can spread to humans. The process’ known as “zoonosis”.

This new virus is the seventh known human coronavirus, it affects the respiratory system.

1.Human coronavirus 229E (HCoV-229E)

  1. Human coronavirus OC43 (HCoV-OC43)
  2. SARS-CoV
  3. Human coronavirus NL63 (HCoV-NL63, New Haven coronavirus)
  4. Human coronavirus HKU1
  5. Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)
  6. Wuhan coronavirus^

^Note: Now officially named as 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

Some coronaviruses have mild symptoms, albeit others are much more dangerous. SARS and MERS are both coronaviruses.

SARS: Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus
- Natural host: Bat
- Intermediate host: Palm civets
- Human host

MERS: Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus
- Natural host: Bat
- Intermediate host: Camel
- Human host

What do scientists need to find out about the outbreak?

The most urgent question is “how does it spread”. It seems that the virus can be transmitted between humans, but it’s still unclear whether it’s happening routinuely. Some early severe cases caused a lot of concerns, but this has receded slightly, as more miled cases turned up. The new virus does not seem to be as deadly as SARS, which killed around 11% of the people being infected.

Where did the virus come from

Researchers think that the virus originated in an unknown animal in the market in Wuhan. Identifying that animal could help control the current outbreak. threat going forward.

What can we learn from the virus’ genetic sequence?

The virus’ genetic code could offer clues to the origin and spread. Labs in China and Thailand have sequenced these munkin chains from infected people, and made them publically available. Analysis is on-going.

Can a drug be developed to treat coronavirus?

There are no known drugs that can effectively treat coronavirus infections in humans, and no vaccines are currently licensed. But researchers are working on the problem. One possible avenue is to block the receptors used to infect humans.

With more cases being reported everyday, the race is on in containing the outbreak, and scientists are at the heart of the effort. Translation