Covid-19 in France: What we know (and do not) so far

Many studies and trials are still ongoing to find out more about SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19

Clinical trials and scientific studies on the origin, spread and nature of Covid-19 are continuing, as the global Discovery project continues from Lyon (‎Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes). We summarise what we know so far.

The Discovery project is a vast clinical trial spearheaded by national medical research unit l'Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (Inserm). It is analysing the safety and efficacy of four investigational therapies - including the controversial drug, hydroxychloroquine - in a minimum of 800 severe Covid-19 patients in France.

In total, it is expected to study 3,200 participants across France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Speaking to news service FranceInfo, lead researcher Professor Florence Ader, based in Lyon, said: “We are progressing at lightning speed, and moving very quickly into the research.”

Beyond Discovery, FranceInfo has rounded up the current, main scientific knowledge about SARS-CoV-2 - the virus that causes Covid-19 - and Covid-19 itself, so far. We summarise and translate the main findings.

What we know so far

The family the virus belongs to

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is a coronavirus. These viruses are well-known, and are called “corona” due to proteins that appear “crown-like” under a microscope. “Corona” means “crown” in Latin.

These viruses cause respiratory problems, and are very common in animals, especially bats and camels.

We already know that SARS-CoV-2 is part of the same group as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome SARS, which killed around 800 people in 2003; and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which killed 500 people in 2012.

The virus genome

The genome is the virus’ “identity card”, says Professor Ader. It holds its genetic material. SARS-CoV-2 (initially named 2019-nCoV), was officially discovered by Chinese authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) on January 9, 2020.

Three days later, Chinese scientists sequenced the genome - meaning they identified its genes. Based on this, scientists are now able to understand more on the virus’ characteristics and ...

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