1. Epidemiology and Global Health
  2. Microbiology and Infectious Disease
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SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) by the numbers

  1. Yinon M Bar-On
  2. Avi Flamholz
  3. Rob Phillips
  4. Ron Milo  Is a corresponding author
  1. The Weizmann Institute for Science, Israel
  2. University of California, Berkeley, United States
  3. California Institute of Technology, United States
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Cite this article as: eLife 2020;9:e57309 doi: 10.7554/eLife.57309

Abstract

The current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is a harsh reminder of the fact that, whether in a single human host or a wave of infection across continents, viral dynamics is often a story about the numbers. In this snapshot, our aim is to provide a one-stop, curated graphical source for the key numbers that help us understand the virus driving our current global crisis. The discussion is framed around two broad themes: 1) the biology of the virus itself and 2) the characteristics of the infection of a single human host. Our one-page summary provides the key numbers pertaining to SARS-CoV-2, based mostly on peer-reviewed literature. The numbers reported in summary format are substantiated by the annotated references below. Readers are urged to remember that much uncertainty remains and knowledge of this pandemic and the virus driving it is rapidly evolving. In the paragraphs below we provide 'back of the envelope' calculations that exemplify the insights that can be gained from knowing some key numbers and using quantitative logic. These calculations serve to improve our intuition through sanity checks, but do not replace detailed epidemiological analysis.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Yinon M Bar-On

    Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, The Weizmann Institute for Science, Rehovot, Israel
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-8477-609X
  2. Avi Flamholz

    Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-9278-5479
  3. Rob Phillips

    Department of Bioengineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-3082-2809
  4. Ron Milo

    Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, The Weizmann Institute for Science, Rehovot, Israel
    For correspondence
    ron.milo@weizmann.ac.il
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-1641-2299

Funding

National Institutes of Health (1R35 GM118043-01 (Maximizing Investigators Research Award))

  • Rob Phillips

Charles and Louise Gartner professional chair

  • Ron Milo

Azrieli Fellow

  • Yinon M Bar-On

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Michael B Eisen, HHMI, University of California, Berkeley, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: March 27, 2020
  2. Accepted: March 30, 2020
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: March 31, 2020 (version 1)
  4. Accepted Manuscript updated: April 1, 2020 (version 2)
  5. Accepted Manuscript updated: April 2, 2020 (version 3)
  6. Version of Record published: May 14, 2020 (version 4)

Copyright

© 2020, Bar-On et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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