On January 9 of this year, Chinese state media reported that a team of researchers led by Xu Jianguo had identified the pathogen behind a mysterious outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan as a novel coronavirus.
Although the virus was soon after named 2019-nCoV, and then renamed SARS-CoV-2, it remains commonly known simply as the coronavirus.
While that moniker has been catapulted into the stratosphere of public attention, it’s somewhat misleading:
Not only is it one of many coronaviruses out there, but you’ve almost certainly been infected with members of the family long before SARS-CoV-2’s emergence in late 2019.
Coronaviruses take their name from the distinctive spikes with rounded tips that decorate their surface, which reminded virologists of the appearance of the sun’s atmosphere, known as its corona.