Pathogenicity and transmissibility of 2019-nCoV-A quick overview and comparison with other emerging viruses

Microbes Infect. 2020 Mar;22(2):69-71. doi: 10.1016/j.micinf.2020.01.004. Epub 2020 Feb 4.


A zoonotic coronavirus, tentatively labeled as 2019-nCoV by the World Health Organization (WHO), has been identified as the causative agent of the viral pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019. Although 2019-nCoV can cause a severe respiratory illness like SARS and MERS, evidence from clinics suggested that 2019-nCoV is generally less pathogenic than SARS-CoV, and much less than MERS-CoV. The transmissibility of 2019-nCoV is still debated and needs to be further assessed. To avoid the 2019-nCoV outbreak turning into an epidemic or even a pandemic and to minimize the mortality rate, China activated emergency response procedures, but much remains to be learned about the features of the virus to refine the risk assessment and response. Here, the current knowledge in 2019-nCoV pathogenicity and transmissibility is summarized in comparison with several commonly known emerging viruses, and information urgently needed for a better control of the disease is highlighted.

Keywords: ACE2; Basic reproduction number (R(0)); Case fatality rate; Novel coronavirus infection; SARS.

MeSH terms

  • Basic Reproduction Number*
  • Betacoronavirus / pathogenicity*
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / transmission*
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / transmission*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Virulence