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How virus detectives trace the origins of an outbreak – and why it's so tricky

By Marilyn J. Roossinck, Professor of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, Penn State
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Every time there is a major disease outbreak, one of the first questions scientists and the public ask is: “Where did this come from?”

In order to predict and prevent future pandemics like COVID-19, researchers need to find the origin of the viruses that cause them. This is not a trivial task. The origin of HIV was not clear until 20 years after it spread around the world. Scientists still don’t know the origin of Ebola, even though it has caused periodic epidemics…


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