General, Research, Technology

In search of a “null patient”: scientists are looking for the person with whom the outbreak of coronavirus began

So far, CoVID-2019 is rapidly expanding toOn the planet, scientists around the world are trying to find a “null patient” - the first person to become infected with the coronavirus. Advances in genetic analysis make it possible to trace the genealogy of a virus through those whom it has infected. In combination with epidemiological studies, scientists can pinpoint the people who may have been the first to spread the disease and thereby trigger an outbreak. The definition of “null patient” can help resolve critical questions about how, when, and why the outbreak occurred. This can help prevent the infection of large numbers of people now and in the future.

Today, nothing is known about the first person infected with a coronavirus.

What is known about the source of coronavirus?

Initially, the Chinese authorities reported that the firstA case of coronavirus was reported on December 31, 2019. All subsequent infections were immediately linked to the seafood market in Wuhan, in Hubei Province, the epicenter of the CoVID-2019 outbreak. Almost 82% of the more than 78,000 cases reported in China and around the world are in Hubei. Such data are quoted by Johns Hopkins University. Read more about the search for a medicine against coronavirus in our special material.

See also: How to distinguish coronavirus from colds and flu?

However, in the work of Chinese experts,published in the magazine Lancet, it is alleged that the first case of CoVID-2019 infection was recorded on December 1, 2019, and this person did not “contact” the seafood market in Wuhan. According to BBC News, the patient turned out to be an elderly man suffering from Alzheimer's. The man lived in four or five bus stops from the seafood market, and since he was ill he did not leave his house. In the following days, three other people developed symptoms of the disease - two of them also did not visit the seafood market. Who specifically are the diseased and whether they contacted an elderly man is not specified.

Coronavirus infected transportation in China

Researchers also found that 27 people(from a sample of 41 patients) who were admitted to the hospital at the very beginning of the epidemic visited the seafood market. Recall that the World Health Organization (WHO) considers the most likely hypothesis about the occurrence of coronavirus in the seafood market in Wuhan. Experts suggest that one of the wild animals traded on the market could infect humans. Only after a while the virus began to spread from person to person.

Can a “null patient” cause an epidemic?

So can one person provoke an epidemicor even a pandemic? The Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014-2016 was the largest since the virus was first detected in 1976. According to WHO, it claimed the lives of over 11,000 people and infected at least 28,000 people. The outbreak lasted more than two years, and cases were reported in 10 countries. Subsequently, scientists came to the conclusion that the outbreak of a new Ebola strain began with one person - a two-year-old boy from Guinea - who was probably infected by playing in the hollow of a tree, where a colony of bats lived.

Researchers around the world are working on a vaccine against coronavirus

But the most famous “zero patient” isMary Mallon, nicknamed Typhoid Mary. So the woman began to be called because of the outbreak of typhoid fever in New York in 1906. Originally from Ireland, Mallon emigrated to the United States, where she worked as a cook with wealthy families. After several cases of typhoid fever, doctors traced the outbreak down to Mallon. Without exception, all the families for which the woman was preparing suffered from typhoid fever. Subsequently, doctors determined that Typhoid Mary was a healthy carrier - such people are infected, but the symptoms of the disease are either mild or absent. Moreover, a person is contagious to others. There is now growing evidence that some people spread viruses more efficiently than others. Such a “super distributor” of coronavirus, presumably, is a Chinese woman who did not get sick herself, but immediately infected five people.

Do you think scientists will be able to find a null patient and who can he be? Share your opinion in the comments and with the participants of our Telegram chat

As for the distribution situationcoronavirus, then WHO experts do not exclude that it can develop into a real pandemic. So, at the time of this writing, the number of people infected in Italy has exceeded 300. This makes the country a potential outbreak of CoVID-20 in Europe. However, even if the worst expectations of WHO experts are met, do not forget that the number of people recovered significantly exceeds the number of deaths.