Scientists Have Found Out Where The Coronavirus Got To Russia
Genetic analysis of samples of a new type of coronavirus from more than 200 Russians once again confirmed that SARS-CoV-2 came to the territory of the Russian Federation not from China, but Europe. Scientists also found that Russia has never "exported" the infection to other countries, the press service of the SKOLKOVO Institute of science and technology writes. The study of genetics is available in the electronic scientific library medRxiv.
"Having arrived in Russia, the virus remained in Russia. We don't see any traces of Russian variants being exported, at least to the countries where the data is available. In this respect, we differ, for example, from the UK, which was and remains a large exporter of coronavirus, not to mention Italy, Spain, and other countries where the European epidemic began," commented Professor of Skoltech Georgy Bazykin on his Facebook page.
In the new study, epidemiologists and virologists led by Bazykin studied the genetic diversity and distribution history of those new-type coronavirus strains that are circulating in Russia. To do this, scientists analyzed 211 SARS-CoV-2 genomes, samples of which were collected in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and in two dozen other regions of the country between mid-March and the end of April.
On the one hand, their comparison and study showed that the virus got to Russia quite late, at the end of February, and at the same time its source was Europe, not China or other Asian countries. On the other hand, scientists found out that the virus was imported to Russia many times and in various regions.
Genetic Chronicles of the epidemic
"In many cases, we can tell exactly where a particular variant of the virus was brought from. These assumptions are often confirmed when there is direct data about trips. A resident of Chechnya went to Mecca for the Hajj – and the virus he brought is close to strains from Saudi Arabia. Top managers of YATEK flew to Switzerland – and the virus they brought to Yakutsk is associated with Swiss ones," Bazykin said.
In total, scientists counted 67 episodes of" import " of the virus. All of them occurred in a short period between the last days of February and the beginning of March. Moreover, in some areas of infection, the virus came from several external sources at once.
For example, several SARS-CoV-2 strains from four different sources were circulating on the territory of the Vreden Research Institute, one of the largest hospitals in Saint Petersburg. A large number of infections in this hospital, as noted by the scientist, helped his team to calculate the rate of transmission of the virus in the first stages of the epidemic. Before the introduction of epidemiological measures, this rate was very high – each patient infected an average of 3.5 people.
Now, according to Bazykin and his colleagues, at least nine different lines of coronavirus are circulating in Russia, and they have not yet reached other countries. The scientist does not exclude the fact that as new samples of the virus genome are studied, researchers will discover other, as yet unknown local strains and lines of SARS-CoV-2.
"Genomic epidemiology not only shows how the virus ended up in Russia but also allows us to understand what will happen next. Let's say Russia opens its borders, and new cases start to arise. Will they be the result of the continuation of the epidemic in Russia or new imports? By comparing the genomes of new and old viruses, we will be able to find out," Bazykin concluded.
It's worth mentioning that the article of scientists was not reviewed by independent experts and not checked by the editors of scientific journals, as is usually the case in such cases. Therefore, conclusions from it and similar articles should be treated with caution.