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Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus – The species and its viruses, a statement of the Coronavirus Study Group

By Alexander E. Gorbalenya

Posted 11 Feb 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.02.07.937862

The present outbreak of lower respiratory tract infections, including respiratory distress syndrome, is the third spillover, in only two decades, of an animal coronavirus to humans resulting in a major epidemic. Here, the Coronavirus Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, which is responsible for developing the official classification of viruses and taxa naming (taxonomy) of the Coronaviridae family, assessed the novelty of the human pathogen tentatively named 2019-nCoV. Based on phylogeny, taxonomy and established practice, the CSG formally recognizes this virus as a sister to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses (SARS-CoVs) of the species Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus and designates it as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). To facilitate communication, the CSG further proposes to use the following naming convention for individual isolates: SARS-CoV-2/Isolate/Host/Date/Location. The spectrum of clinical manifestations associated with SARS-CoV-2 infections in humans remains to be determined. The independent zoonotic transmission of SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 highlights the need for studying the entire (virus) species to complement research focused on individual pathogenic viruses of immediate significance. This research will improve our understanding of virus-host interactions in an ever-changing environment and enhance our preparedness for future outbreaks.

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