National Science Review, https://doi.org/10.1093/nsr/nwaa009

Evolutionary Perspectives on Novel Coronaviruses Identified in Pneumonia Cases in China

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Coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), are highly transmissible pathogens, and they can be lethal in humans. Bats are believed to be the original sources of these lethal pathogens. In December 2019, a cluster of pneumonia cases was reported in Wuhan and a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has been linked to the causative agent. Early studies indicated that the new virus was genetically similar to a bat betacoronavirus, providing evidence for bat origin of the third human-infecting coronavirus in less than 20 years. We here highlight the potential for viral spillover from animals to humans and discuss evolutionary mechanisms leading to the outbreaks.

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