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DNA Sleuths Read The Coronavirus Genome, Tracing Its Origins And Looking For Dangerous Mutations

As infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists race to contain the outbreak of the novel coronavirus centered on Wuhan, China, they’re getting backup that’s been possible only since the explosion in genetic technologies: a deep-dive into the genome of the virus known as 2019-nCoV.

Analyses of the viral genome are already providing clues to the origins of the outbreak and even possible ways to treat the infection, a need that is becoming more urgent by the day: Early on Saturday in China, health officials reported 15 new fatalities in a single day, bringing the death toll to 41. There are now nearly 1,100 confirmed cases there.

Reading the genome (which is made of RNA, not DNA) also allows researchers to monitor how 2019-nCoV is changing and provides a roadmap for developing a diagnostic test and a vaccine.

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