Europe was central in the global spread of COVID-19, study shows

In a new study, researchers have mapped out the dispersal of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, responsible for the current worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, putting Europe center-stage as the main source of the spread.

The findings confirm that the virus originated in China and most likely jumped into humans from horseshoe bats.

But it is Europe, not China, which has been the main source for spreading the disease around the world.

Travel restrictions across Britain and Europe seem to have been too little and too late, and most of the spread of the virus to America and other parts of the world was via Europe, not directly from China.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Minho and elsewhere.

The study focused on 27,000 virus genomes, sampled from all around the world.

The researchers usually work on tracking ancient human migrations using mitochondrial DNA, and they capitalized on the fact that the virus genome is similar in crucial respects.

Still, the mammoth size of the database—even back in May, when the study began—makes this one of the biggest analyses of its kind ever undertaken.

There is a huge ongoing worldwide effort to understand the spread of the virus, and the researchers are trying to make their work available to the public as fast as possible.

As the world continues to face a rapidly spreading pathogen, a greater understanding of the virus can better inform and improve upon policies designed to control the spread.

One author of the study is clinical geneticist Dr. Teresa Rito.

The study is published in the journal Microorganisms.

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