13 November 2012
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has today published the completed whole genome sequence from the UK case of confirmed novel coronavirus, which was diagnosed on 22 September 2012. The patient continues to receive treatment in a London hospital.
Today’s publication of the full genome sequence will enable scientists to see how closely the UK case is linked to the first case of confirmed novel coronavirus, which was diagnosed in a patient from Saudi Arabia in June, and who subsequently died.
Analysis of the variation in the genomic sequences, coupled with the three month gap between patients infected with this coronavirus, indicate that there are probably independent sources of infection. Genomic analysis also indicates that the closest relative to this coronavirus was a bat virus identified in 2008 in the Netherlands.
Professor Maria Zambon, director of HPA’s reference microbiology services, said: “We are very pleased to be able to share the completed whole genome sequence data with the scientific community. It has been very technically challenging to try to recover and piece together an entire virus from miniscule amounts of material. However, understanding more about the diversity of virus will help with efforts to determine its origin as well as to develop strategies for treatment and prevention, such as vaccine development, should further cases emerge.
“There have been huge technological leaps since viruses such as H5N1 and SARS were discovered 10-15 years ago. The speed of response is a testament to the lessons learnt by the scientific and health community after SARS. Rapid disclosure of data enables diverse groups of scientists to study the virus in real time to help with the global health response, and HPA are pleased to contribute to that.”
There has been one further case of novel coronavirus infection identified in Saudi Arbia since the UK case was diagnosed in September which brings the total reported globally to three cases. No travel restrictions are in place but people returning from the Middle East with severe respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath, should seek medical advice and mention which countries they have visited.
Professor Zambon continued: “With the close of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, we anticipate that there may be a small number of returning travellers to the UK who require investigation as possible cases of novel coronavirus, and we are fully prepared for this.
“The HPA has also contributed senior medical staff to World Health Organization missions to Qatar and Saudi Arabia to assist in the ongoing investigations in these countries, and is providing scientific assistance to several countries in the region.”
Last reviewed: 13 November 2012