At the beginning of January 2020, a number of patients with pneumonia of unknown aetiology was reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. The outbreak was associated with a seafood market in Wuhan, where a novel coronavirus was identified as the etiological agent. Several independent research groups identified this novel virus as a member of the zoonotic coronavirus family with highly identical genome as a bat coronavirus, pointing to the bat as the natural host. The genomic sequences of the novel virus are almost identical and share about 80% sequence identity to a virus that emerged 17 years ago causing a „Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome“ called SARS-CoV. As a result, the novel identified virus has been classified as SARS-CoV-2. While the virus is likely originating from zoonotic coronaviruses, it adapted perfectly to humans and spreads rapidly.
For a long time Coronviruses are known to cause mild respiratory diseases in humans. In the last two decades two coronoviruses have been identified, the SARS-CoV in 2002 and the MERS-CoV in 2009. Both viruses caused severe life threatening illness of the lower respiratory tract..
The currently spreading SARS-CoV-2 virus causes a disease, which is called coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) and shows a wide range of symptoms, ranging from asymptomatic/mild symptoms to flue-like symptoms and further to severe illness with progressive respiratory insufficiency requiring mechanical ventilation which can even trigger a multiple organ dysfunction syndrome.
Within a few months of the first report, SARS-CoV-2 had spread worldwide, reaching a pandemic level. COVID-19 has triggered enormous human casualties and serious economic loss posing global threat and a crucial test for the international solidarity of the world.
Quelle: Sequences are available at www.GISAID.org. Fig: Dr. Maximilian Muenchhoff, Max von Pettenkofer-Institut, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU). For enlargment of the figure please click here.
Also in Germany and Bavaria society, politics and science are facing completely new challenges in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. As a result and in an effort to face the pandemic and its major scientific questions, Bavarian universities and research institutes joined forces in the Bavarian research consortium ‘FORCOVID’. The research partners in FORCOVID, which include international renowned scientists, will combine their expertise in virological diagnostics, the development of vaccines and the evaluation of virus specific immunity. In addition FORCOVID will focus on the virus –cell interactions and the research in pathogenesis and therapy.
The mission of FOR COVID is to contribute to the continuous international scientific efforts to combat COVID-19 and the pandemic. On the national level FORCOVID will closely interact and join forces with the project groups of a Saxonian research network.