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How genomics can revolutionize public health

Coronavirus evolutionary tree
A phylogenetic tree tracks the evolution of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as it spread throughout the United States. An orange dot at lower left indicates WA-1, the first confirmed case in the U.S., which was detected in Washington state. (Nextstrain / GISAID Graphic)

From the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, genetic sleuths have been at the forefront in the global effort to monitor SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. By comparing the molecular fingerprints of different virus samples collected in Washington state, they were able to track down the first signs of community spread in the U.S.

In a paper published today by Nature Medicine, some of the pioneers of genomic epidemiology have laid out a 10-point plan for creating a well-supported scientific ecosystem — not only to fight COVID-19, but to head off future pandemics as well.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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