Map of Chinese provinces colour coded according to the number of cases of 2019-nCoV  as at 27 January 2020. Credits Vittoria Colizza
Coronaviruses, which are named after the crown shape of the proteins that surround them, are a family of viruses that have a traditionally animal reservoir.
In some cases, transmission from animal to human is possible, as the SARS, MERS and probably this new virus have shown.
While these viruses are mostly benign in humans, two death-causing epidemics have been reported in recent years in the Middle East (MERS-Cov, 2012-2013) and in China ten years earlier (SARS-Cov, 2002-2003).
For this third outbreak, the outbreak would come from a fish and seafood market in Wuhan, where live animals are also sold. The search for the reservoir and host is ongoing.
Inserm is already mobilized to respond to the epidemic, under the action of the Reacting consortium, which brings together French research groups of excellence. Several initiatives have been launched:
- The consolidation of a «modelling group» set up at the request of Reacting, to model the possible spread of the epidemic in France and Europe, and anticipate its impact on populations.
- The work entrusted to Bruno Lina (Inserm Unit 1111 – Centre International de Recherche en Infectiologie, CIRI) to propose a research project on potential therapeutic targets to identify molecules capable of acting on several types of coronavirus.
- Support for clinical research, through the dissemination to Reacting’s French and international partners of best practices in research protocols/ standardization of data collection.
 List of signatories : Academy of Medical Sciences, UK; African Academy of Sciences; Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response / Biodefense Advanced Research and Development Authority, USA; Austrian Science Fund (FWF), Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM); Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; BioRxiv; Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), UK; Bulletin of the World Health Organization; The British Medical Journal (BMJ); Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation – Gulbenkian Science Institute; Canadian Institutes of Health Research; Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), USA; Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention; The Department for International Development (DFID); DG Research & Innovation, European Commission; Dutch Research Council (NWO); eLife; EcoHealth Alliance; EMBO; Epicentre – MSF; European Respiratory Journal ; ERJ Open Research; F1000 Research Limited; Fondation Merieux; Food & Drug Administration, USA; French National Research Agency (ANR); The Global Health Network; Global Virus Network; GLOPID-R ; Inserm (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale), France ; The Institut Pasteur; International Severe Acute Respiratory and emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC); International Society for Infectious Diseases (ISID); Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED); Johnson & Johnson; The Lancet Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR); Medical Research Council (UK); Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF); MedRxiv; Merck Research Laboratories; Microbide Limited National Academy of Medicine, USA; National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA; National Institute for Infectious Diseases Lazzaro Spallanzani, Italy; New England Journal of Medicine; Office of Global Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, USA; Portland Press; PLOS; The Research Council of Norway; The Royal Society; Science Europe; Science Foundation Ireland ; ScienceOpen; South African Medical Research Council Takeda; Taylor & Francis; ZonMW – The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development