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Covid-19: How unprecedented data sharing has led to faster-than-ever outbreak research

23.03.2020 - Horizon Magazine

Advances in gene sequencing have allowed scientists to trace and monitor the COVID-19 pandemic faster than any previous outbreak.

However, gaps in our knowledge of how coronaviruses work has made it difficult to understand what makes the new coronavirus special.

When the new coronavirus (formally known as SARS-CoV-2) was identified in China in January, scientists around the world were ready to respond. The virus’s entire genetic makeup, or genome, was published online within days. By comparison, during the SARS coronavirus outbreak in 2003, this took almost three months, after the disease was originally blamed on chlamydia.

Advances in the technology have brought down the cost of gene sequencing significantly and the machines are now small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. This has made it easier for a large number of samples to be sequenced around the world.

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