Since the end of 2019, a novel virus that can cause respiratory diseases and pneumonia has been spreading worldwide. The pathogen SARS-CoV-2 belongs to the coronavirus family and is closely related to the SARS virus, which caused a pandemic in 2002. Here we will keep you informed about current developments in research and provide answers to the most important questions.

The family of coronaviruses owes its name to the proteins on the surface of the virus particle that give the virus a crown-like appearance under the electron microscope (Latin corona ‘crown’). The family has four members that cause relatively harmless common colds in humans. However, coronaviruses have already jumped from animals to humans (zoonoses) in 2002 and 2012, causing much more severe disease progression. The epidemics with SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) and MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) could be contained again after some time.

Since the end of 2019, a novel coronavirus has been spreading again. The pathogen SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2) replicates in the throat and lungs. It is transmitted from person to person by droplets produced when speaking, coughing and sneezing. This coronavirus has appeared in humans for the first time, so there is no immunity to the pathogen in the population. Scientists suspect that bats were the host of the novel virus before it spread to humans. It is not yet conclusively known whether there was an intermediate host and what species it was. Unlike influenza, there is no specific drug or vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. Researchers around the world are working on the development of therapies and, for instance, testing the effect of already approved drugs in clinical trials.

In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the spread of SARS-CoV-2 a pandemic. In May 2023, the global public health emergency was lifted.

An interdisciplinary group of experts from the HZI and other centres of the Helmholtz Association as well as selected partners, who contribute expertise on various issues in the context of pandemic response, have written answers to urgent questions about the coronavirus. The FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) provide fact-based information to give clarity and orientation and to help frame current debates.


Dr Peggy Riese, scientist in the Department “Vaccinology and Applied Microbiology” at HZI, talks in an interview about current developments in SARS-CoV-2 vaccine research. [more]


With your donation to the HZI you directly support innovative coronavirus research projects that contribute to solutions for the containment of the virus and the identification of possible therapies. [more]

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