It all started at a market in Wuhan, China. Within a few weeks, a novel coronavirus, now called 2019-nCoV, spread to at least 15 regions or countries outside of the Chinese mainland.

In December 2019, the WHO China Country Office was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown aetiology (unknown cause) detected in Wuhan City, Hubei province of China. A large market in the city of Wuhan, where meat from traditional agriculture and live animals is sold, has been found out as the place of origin. On 7 January 2020, a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was identified as the causative virus.

In the meantime, primary cases have also been reported in the North America, Europe and other regions worldwide. Until 29 January, WHO reported over 6,000 cases, more than 130 of them fatal.

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that can infect humans as well as animals, including birds and mammals. Coronaviruses can cause common colds but also severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Initial phylogenetic analysis suggests that the new virus is similar to the SARS coronavirus.

Reliable diagnostics are now required to support the diagnosis of infections with 2019-nCoV in order to address this novel urgent health problem.

Shortly after the genetic sequence of 2019-nCoV had been published on 10 January, EUROIMMUN decided to develop a diagnostic assay. While PCR-based tests play an important role, especially in the early infection phase, serology is most relevant for diagnosis following viraemia.

Our scientists are now working full steam ahead to establish reliable test systems. During the first outbreaks of SARS-CoV in 2002/2003, MERS-CoV in 2012 and Zika virus in 2015/2016, EUROIMMUN was the first company to offer serological test systems for these diseases.