Genome of coronavirus sequenced by Pasteur Institute


ON Jan 24, 2020, the French Ministry of Health confirmed the first three cases of patients affected by the Wuhan coronavirus.

On January 29, 2020, the Institut Pasteur, which is responsible for monitoring respiratory viruses in France, sequenced the whole genome of the coronavirus known as “2019-nCoV,” becoming the first institution in Europe to sequence the virus since the start of the outbreak.

The virus was sequenced at the Institut Pasteur’s Mutualized Platform for Microbiology (P2M), which performs genome sequencing on bacterial, viral, fungal and parasite strains received by National Reference Centers and World Health Organization Collaborating Centers for the purpose of infectious disease surveillance.

In December 2019, an outbreak of apparently viral pneumonia of unknown etiology emerged in the city of Wuhan, in the Chinese province of Hubei.

On January 9, 2020, the Chinese health authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the discovery of a novel coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, which was confirmed as the agent responsible for the pneumonia cases.

Over the weekend of January 11-12, the Chinese authorities shared the full sequence of the coronavirus genome, as detected in samples taken from the first patients.

“Sequencing the genome of pathogens is crucial for the development of specific diagnostic tests and the identification of potential treatment options,” explains Sylvie van der Werf, Director of the National Reference Center (CNR) for Respiratory Viruses at the Institut Pasteur.

Friday January 24, 2020. Detection of the virus confirmed in France

On Friday January 24, late in the morning, the Institut Pasteur received samples of three suspected cases (two patients in Paris and one in Bordeaux). “Using the samples taken from these patients, we detected the novel coronavirus,” says Sylvie Behillil, Deputy Director of the CNR at the Institut Pasteur.

From Friday January 24, 2020. Viral genome sequenced at the Institut Pasteur

That same Friday evening, scientists launched the process of sequencing the viral genome based on the samples. The CNR prepared the material for sequencing, ready for P2M to begin work immediately the following Monday. The sequencing run was completed by early evening on the Tuesday, and the scientists used data analysis to obtain the sequence of the whole genome in two of the first three confirmed cases in France. “This proves the efficacy of the CNR’s process of analysis based on viral sequencing,” continues Vincent Enouf.