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Surveilling the virus

ZDNet – With access to tens of thousands of virus samples, COVID-19 researchers are constructing family trees that show the virus’s rapid spread, an unprecedented view of disease…”Scientists Eric Dumonteil and Claudia Herrera of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University this month described their attempts to build such a family tree using 18,247 samples of the viral RNA, what they refer to as “a global analysis of viral diversity across the world.” Their paper, “Polymorphism and selection pressure of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine and diagnostic antigens: implications for immune evasion and serologic diagnostic performance,” was posted June 18th on the bioRxiv pre-print server. The work has not been reviewed yet by peer researchers, and so its findings have to be taken with great caution. The samples of COVID-19 RNA can be downloaded as files from GISAID, a database hosted by Germany that is drawn upon by scientists all over the world. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has been a technical partner supporting the database since its creation in 2006.  To see how those thousands of samples relate to one another, Dumonteil and Herrera turned to a software package called FastTree, developed by Morgan N. Price and colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2009…The kinds of viral surveillance going on may yield a scientific picture of infection around the world that is unlike any picture of disease humanity has ever constructed before…”

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