One very interesting paper concerning COVID-19 was the paper describing the first isolation of the virus by Harcourt et al. However, this paper as far as I can tell was only published as a preprint in May of 2020 describing research done in January and February of 2020. I used Google Scholar and other web searches and I cannot find any indication that the paper was ever peer reviewed and published in a journal. Since it is such an important paper, it seems kind of surprising to me that after a year and half the paper seems to still be unpublished. Am I missing something here?

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    $\begingroup$ pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32160149 You could have found this by hovering your mouse over the author's name in the preprint link, which offered you the choice of seeing other papers by Jennifer Harcourt. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ This is of course not the first isolation of the virus so what do you mean with "important paper"? Many other papers described the same thing, though with less details and cell lines. $\endgroup$
    – reuns
    Commented Dec 26, 2021 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ @reuns Well, by "first" I mean the first verifiable isolation. The only ones I know of prior to it were unverifiable claims by researchers who never submitted their isolate to a repository. If you read the Harcourt paper, you can see that was a major goal of their research ("We also deposited the virus into two virus repositories, making it broadly available to the public health and research communities."). $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 27, 2021 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ What? The virus was first isolated in China around Jan 5. Did you read the WIV (RaTG13) and China CDC papers? nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2012-7 nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2001017 $\endgroup$
    – reuns
    Commented Dec 27, 2021 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ And their WA1 isolate has been used in USA only. Most countries did a isolate from one of their first patients and made a stock from it. I am not aware of much international strain sharing. $\endgroup$
    – reuns
    Commented Dec 27, 2021 at 15:10

1 Answer 1


It was published in June of 2020 by Emerging Infectious Disease under a slightly modified title. (It's not uncommon for journal editors and/or peer reviewers to require changes to the title of a manuscript prior to publication).

Found as the top result under "Similar Articles" on PubMed page of the bioRxiv pre-print. PMC link and full citation below.


Harcourt J, Tamin A, Lu X, Kamili S, Sakthivel SK, Murray J, Queen K, Tao Y, Paden CR, Zhang J, Li Y, Uehara A, Wang H, Goldsmith C, Bullock HA, Wang L, Whitaker B, Lynch B, Gautam R, Schindewolf C, Lokugamage KG, Scharton D, Plante JA, Mirchandani D, Widen SG, Narayanan K, Makino S, Ksiazek TG, Plante KS, Weaver SC, Lindstrom S, Tong S, Menachery VD, Thornburg NJ. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 from Patient with Coronavirus Disease, United States. Emerg Infect Dis. 2020 Jun;26(6):1266-1273. doi: 10.3201/eid2606.200516. Epub 2020 Jun 17. PMID: 32160149; PMCID: PMC7258473.


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