What you need to know
- The first confirmed COVID-19 case in New York City came from sources mainly Europe and the United States, according to the first molecular epidemiological study of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
- The research, published online, was led by the Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai and was the first to track the source of the case.
- The study also found that, although the first New York State case was confirmed in March, the virus had circulated around the area the previous week.
The first confirmed COVID-19 case in New York City came from sources mainly Europe and the United States, according to the first molecular epidemiological study of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, conducted by Mount Sinai.
The study, published online, was led by the Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai and was the first to track the source of the case. This study shows that the epidemic in this city mostly arises through uninterrupted transmission between the United States and Europe. He also found limited evidence to support a direct introduction from China, where the virus originated, or other locations in Asia.
“These results indicate that SARS-CoV-2 comes to the New York City region mainly through Europe via untraceable transmissions,” Viviana Simon, MD, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at ISMMS, said. “Only one of the cases studied was infected with a virus which is a clear candidate for entry from Asia, and the virus is most closely related to virus isolates from Seattle, Washington.”
New York City has become one of the main centers of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the US with more than 4,000 deaths in the metropolitan area.
The research team from the Icahn Institute for Data Science and Genomic Technology, Global Health and the Emerging Pathogens Institute, and the Department of Microbiology, Pathology, and Genetics and Genomics Science sequenced 90 SARS-CoV-2 genes out of 84 of the more than 800 confirmed. COVID-19 positive cases in the Mount Sinai Health System.
“We are sequencing the genomes of the COVID-19 cases identified until March 18,” Harm van Bakel, Assistant Professor of Genetics and Genomics at ISMMS, said. “These cases were taken from 21 New York City neighborhoods in four regions (Manhattan, Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn), as well as two cities in neighboring Westchester County.”
The researchers then analyzed this sequence along with all 2,363 SARS-CoV-2 genes that are available to the public from around the world to determine the most likely origins of the SARS-CoV-2 type that infects Mount Sinai patients.
“Phylogenetic analysis of 84 different SARS-CoV2 genomes shows some independent but isolated introductions mainly from Europe and other parts of the United States. In addition, related virus groups found in patients living in various urban environments provide strong evidence of transmission of the SARS-CoV2 community in the city before March 18, 2020, “van Bakel said.
Although the federal government instituted targeted screening of possible COVID-19 cases, as well as a number of travel restrictions to limit its spread in the United States from hotspots in China, Iran, and, later, European countries, the first case in the state. New York was identified in New York City last month.
On March 1, the Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, announced the first confirmed coronavirus case in the city.
However, this study found another interesting element: while the case of the State of New York was first confirmed in March, the virus circulated around the area a few weeks earlier.
“This study also shows that the virus is likely to circulate as early as the end of January 2020 in the New York City area. This underscores the urgent need for initial and continuing extensive testing to identify untracked transmission clusters in the community,” Simon said.
According to the researchers, knowing the time the virus came to New York and the route taken was important for evaluating and designing effective containment strategies.