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XJTLU Researcher Adding Piece To Puzzle Of New Coronavirus

SUZHOU, JIANGSU, China, Jan. 29, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- According to a researcher at Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, the Wuhan coronavirus, nCoV-2019, is closely related to SARS from the viewpoint of virus evolution. 

"Our findings suggest the nCoV-2019 lineage is related to the bat coronaviruses that gave rise to SARS," said Dr Xiaowei Jiang, bioinformatics lecturer at XJTLU's Department of Biological Sciences. 

"As SARS was eradicated it won't emerge again. From a phylogenetic standpoint this new outbreak should be considered as SARS 2."

Dr Jiang and Professor David Robertson of the University of Glasgow's Centre for Virus Research have conducted a preliminary evolutionary analysis of nCoV-2019 and other coronaviruses sampled in China that indicates a strong relation to three bat coronaviruses.

"While the results of our preliminary analysis have not yet been peer-reviewed or published, we are sharing as much information as we feel confident providing due to the urgent nature of scientists getting a better understanding of this new coronavirus," Dr Jiang said.

Scientists believe the SARS virus – which, according to the World Health Organisation, caused an outbreak that sickened more than 8,000 people and killed 774 worldwide in 2002-2003 – began in bats and was transmitted to humans via civet cats.

"In SARS, parts of bat coronaviruses came together to create a new virus that could infect civet cats. And that virus was able to infect humans."

"As with SARS, there is likely to be an as-yet undiscovered host – in other words, a non-bat intermediate species – that is probably responsible for the outbreak centred on the Wuhan market," Dr Jiang said.

The researchers analysed the genetic information of different coronaviruses from different species along with that of the nCoV-2019 to better understand where the new coronavirus came from and how it came about. 

"We used methods such as recombination analysis, mutation analysis and phylogenetic analysis to understand how the virus genome has changed compared with other known virus genomes," Dr Jiang said.

The close relation of these three bat coronaviruses to nCoV-2019 is highly likely, statistically speaking, he said.

"They are clustered together in the phylogenetic tree – a representation of their evolutionary relationships – with very high confidences," Dr Jiang said.

XJTLU is the largest international collaborative university in China, a partnership between Xi'an Jiaotong University and the University of Liverpool.

SOURCE Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University