The coronavirus was among the Spanish people sooner than everyone knew

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The first case of COVID-19 disease, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, was reported on December 1, 2019 in the city of Wuhan in China. Since then, infections have been reported in all countries of Europe - and practically worldwide - causing thousands of deaths.

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the first cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections in Europe were reported in the week of January 26 to February 1, with 5 cases in France , 4 cases in Germany, 2 cases in Italy, 2 cases in the United Kingdom and 1 case in Finland.

Great transmission potential

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In Spain, the first two cases were reported during the following week (from February 2 to 8), the first in La Gomera (Canary Islands) and the other in Mallorca (Balearic Islands). The following 5 reported cases had a history of travel to Italy and were detected in Tenerife (Canary Islands), Catalonia, Castellón (Valencian Community) and Madrid before February 26.

In the following two days, the Spanish health authorities reported 18 new cases in the Canary Islands, Catalonia, Andalusia and the Valencian Community, and in the week of March 1 to 7, a total of 261 confirmed cases were reported across the country. To date (April 23), Spain is among the countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with 213,024 confirmed cases and 22,157 deaths.

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In order to better understand the dynamics of coronavirus transmission in Spain, a team of researchers from the National Center for Microbiology of the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII) carried out a phylogenetic analysis examining data from the GISAID platform, a non-profit organization providing public access to the most comprehensive collection of genetic sequences.

Geneticists have identified three major families of the coronavirus, clade S, V and G. The situation in Europe seems to be dominated by all three, although clade G is the most prevalent so far. Additionally, analyzes have revealed that the genetic code of the coronavirus is made up of about 30,000 digits and that the virus is capable of making up to 100,000 copies of itself in just 24 hours, once it infects a cell, which explains its great potential. of transmission.

Different routes

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The ISCIII researchers analyzed 28 complete genome sequences from Spanish samples, finding evidence that, in addition to ruling out the notion of a "zero patient", confirms "a multitude of entries" - up to 15 different routes - of people infected from other countries during the February month.

This observation corroborates that the coronavirus was circulating among Spaniards earlier than previously believed, at least one month before the authorities implemented measures to restrict mobility and social distancing.

The researcher Francisco Díez Fuertes, main author of the study, indicated that "at least two of these routes of entry of the virus promoted the appearance of conglomerates transmitted locally, with the subsequent diffusion to at least six other countries."

Ultimately, the authors highlight that studies on the dynamics of viral transmission are crucial to mitigate the pandemic because they can help public health authorities identify viral transmission pathways, guide response measures, and evaluate proper functioning. of surveillance systems.

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