< Virus

What do the abbreviations COVID, SARS, CoV, RNA, etc. mean?

Text updated on 2020-04-28


SARS: acronym for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, an infectious disease of the lungs caused by a coronavirus.

CoV: Coronavirus is a group of viruses belonging to the family Coronaviridae. The name coronavirus, from the Latin meaning "virus with a crown", stems from their microscopic structure which resembles a solar corona. These RNA viruses can infect mammals (including humans) as well as fish and birds. Children are often infected with coronaviruses of the alpha family. The epidemics of the last 20 years have been caused by beta family coronaviruses: the SARS outbreak in 2003, the MERS outbreak from 2012, and the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, which is ongoing. Bats are a reservoir of beta family coronaviruses.

COVID-19: Coronavirus Disease first appeared in 2019. Disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The first cases were reported in November 2019 in the city of Wuhan, central China. The virus spread worldwide within a few weeks.

MERS: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. A viral respiratory infection caused by the coronavirus MERS-CoV, which was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

RNA: ribonucleic acid. A long molecule consisting of a linear sequence of elementary building blocks, the ribonucleotides (named A, U, G and C). This molecule is present in RNA viruses and in the majority of living things. It is a key factor involved in protein production and other chemical reactions within the cell.

DNA: deoxyribonucleic acid. A long, double-helix molecule consisting of a linear sequence of elementary building blocks, the deoxyribonucleotides (denoted A, T, G and C). This molecule is present in all living things but not in RNA viruses. It is a key factor involved in the storage of genetic information, its transmission to subsequent generations, the production of proteins and other chemical reactions within the cell.


facebook twitter linkedin


Further reading

What is the purpose of social distancing?

Why put on a mask?