Study shows Europe was central in the global spread of Covid-19

Published Nov 5, 2020


CAPE TOWN- A recent study has shown that while the first cases of Covid-19 were recorded in Wuhan, China, the continent which has been the main source for spreading the disease around the world has been Europe.

A research group from the University of Huddersfield's Archaeogenetics has mapped out the dispersal of Covid-19 and conducted by far the largest phylogeographic analysis to date by examining 27,000 virus genomes, sampled from all around the world.

This phylogeographic analysis examined the historical processes that may be responsible for the contemporary geographic distributions of individuals.

The paper, recently published by the journal Microorganisms, confirmed that the virus originated in China and most likely jumped into humans from horseshoe bats. From the end of February to the end of May, Europe was the source for the vast majority of new founder sequences detected globally.


Researchers from the study said: "We demonstrated here that the phylogeographic detection and analysis of founder lineages can be a powerful approach with which to track intercontinental movements of a fast-spreading pathogen in fine detail. Not only that, but it has practical value in allowing us to evaluate the impact of travel restrictions imposed at various times around the world."

The study found that air travel was a major driver of the pandemic, and the analysis suggests that stricter travel restrictions appear to be more effective in slowing the spread.

"A single specific East Asian founder underwent massive radiation in Europe and became the main actor of the subsequent spread worldwide during March 2020. This lineage accounts for the great majority of cases detected globally and even spread back to the source in East Asia," authors from the study said.

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