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Missed Chance

The SARS-CoV-2 genome was sequenced quickly after the outbreak began, but FiveThirtyEight writes that that genomic data wasn't applied as hoped to track viral spread.

During the 2013 to 2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, it writes that scientists were able to sequence viral genomes in real time and show how the disease was spreading. But, FiveThirtyEight also notes those tools started to be used a few months into the outbreak and that in Nature Reviews Genetics, researchers said they could "only speculate as to their potential impact" if they had been used earlier. A 2018 Nature Microbiology article further envisioned how genomics could be incorporated to combat the outbreak of a hypothetical novel virus, it adds, noting that that article predicted genomics could help nip the outbreak in the bud.

But, that hasn't been the case for COVID-19, FiveThirtyEight reports. SARS-CoV-2, it says, is more infectious and more difficult to detect than the hypothetical one in the Nature Microbiology paper. Additionally, the response was stymied by limited testing, so by the time scientists had enough data, the virus had been circulating for weeks. Still, researchers tell it that, eventually, there will be a wealth of data to analyze that could help address future waves of the virus.