THURSDAY, April 9, 2020 (HealthDay News) — The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been circulating in New York City for longer than previously believed and most cases can be traced back to Europe, new research reveals.

To come to that conclusion, genetic information about COVID-19 was gathered from nasal swab samples taken from 75 patients at Tisch Hospital, NYU Winthrop Hospital, and NYU Langone Hospital Brooklyn, said the NYU Langone Health team. The findings were submitted to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data, which promotes the international sharing of data on influenza infections and is now tracking the evolution of COVID-19.

“The value of determining viral local sequences is that — the more that become available — the better we can monitor the spread and severity of the disease — and the more it can clarify which drugs, vaccines, or social interventions are effective here,” sequencing team leader Adriana Heguy, Ph.D., director of the NYU Langone Genome Technology Center, said in an NYU Langone news release. “We’re just starting this project, but will soon be sequencing 192 viral samples per week with the goal of offering thousands of sequences for analysis in the near future.”

“This global effort does not just determine the code of a single version of the virus, but tracks how its genetic code changes as it moves through a population, and with what consequences,” Matija Snuderl, M.D., director of Molecular Pathology and Diagnostics at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City, said in a statement. “As viruses evolve during transmission from person to person, their sequences can help researchers to zero in on the provenance, or place of origin, of that specific infection.”

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 452,582 COVID-19 cases and more than 16,000 deaths reported in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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