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Reflecting and expanding on PLOS Pathogens’ response to COVID-19

By: PLOS Pathogens

PLOS Pathogens is built and led by researchers studying pathogens in every field. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the journal was well-positioned to provide a home for research related to the emerging SARS-CoV-2 pathogen. Now, we’re updating our approach to evaluating COVID papers.

Accelerating and amplifying SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research in 2020

Almost a year ago, the PLOS Pathogens Editors-in-Chief shared their plan for streamlining the peer review of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research, and amplifying related research after publication. In response to the pandemic, the journal tapped a team of eight Section Editors with specialized expertise to handle COVID-related submissions on an accelerated timeline. 

Each newly published article was highlighted on our journal homepage, shared to PLOS Pathogens’ 29,000+ Twitter followers and added to an ongoing PLOS-wide curated collection, with regular email updates to over 600 subscribers. Our media relations team highlighted several papers, garnering coverage in Newsweek, The Independent, US News and World Report, The Daily Mail and others.

Since January 2020, PLOS Pathogens has evaluated more than 400 submissions related to COVID-19, resulting in 56 published articles to date. The average time to first decision for these papers was just 9.6 days, and average time to accept after review was 80 days. 

Each new insight—whether relating to structural biology and pathogenesis, diagnostic tools, therapies and vaccines, or public health and epidemiology— made a valuable contribution to the field and to the global effort to understand and combat this deadly disease. We’d like to take a moment to acknowledge and thank everyone who has helped advance this important work—THANK YOU! You’ve directly contributed to the progress made in tackling the pandemic.

A special thanks to our eight SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 Section Editors
  • Michael Diamond, MD, PhD, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
  • Ron Fouchier, PhD, Erasmus University Medical Center
  • Adam Lauring, MD, PhD University of Michigan
  • Benhur Lee, MD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Andrew Pekosz, PhD, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Shin-Ru Shih, PhD, Chang Gung University
  • Kanta Subbarao, MBBS, MPH, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity
  • David Wang, PhD, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

Expanding and streamlining for the future

At this stage in the pandemic, many researchers with expertise in coronaviruses and respiratory illnesses are more consistently available to take time for editorial and peer review responsibilities. At the same time, scientific literature on SARS-CoV-2 has expanded so rapidly, and the base of knowledge has become so broad, that submissions we are now seeing would benefit from a wider range of methodological and disciplinary perspectives. With all of this in mind, we’ve decided to expand the handling of SARS-CoV-2 submissions from a select group of dedicated Section Editors to any of our 300-member PLOS Pathogens Editorial Board with relevant expertise. 

SARS-CoV-2 submissions will also be incorporated into established journal workflows, helping the journal to run more efficiently overall. As always, we remain committed to expediting the handling of urgent submissions related to COVID-19, or to any of the pathogens our journal covers. We will also continue to elevate published COVID-19 research via our homepage and Twitter page.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. But as with all areas in the study of pathogens, we will continue to publish high quality, rigorous science as we adapt to meet new challenges and a changing landscape of scholarly publishing.

Selections from a year of PLOS Pathogens COVID-19 research & commentary

COVID-19 pandemic: Insights into structure, function, and hACE2 receptor recognition by SARS-CoV-2
Anshumali Mittal, Kavyashree Manjunath, Rajesh Kumar Ranjan, Sandeep Kaushik, Sujeet Kumar, Vikash Verma
A review of current knowledge on the origin, evolution and structure of SARS-CoV-2.

Sex-specific clinical characteristics and prognosis of coronavirus disease-19 infection in Wuhan, China: A retrospective study of 168 severe patients
Yifan Meng, Ping Wu, Wanrong Lu, Kui Liu, Ke Ma, et al
A retrospective study examining sex-specific clinical characteristics and outcomes among patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

The SARS-CoV-2 and other human coronavirus spike proteins are fine-tuned towards temperature and proteases of the human airways
Manon Laporte, Valerie Raeymaekers, Ria Van Berwaer, Julie Vandeput, Isabel Marchand-Casas, et al
An exploration of the viral spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 reveals that, despite recent zoonotic introduction, the disease is already well-adapted for replication in the human upper airway compared with other pathogenic human corona viruses.

Development and evaluation of a rapid CRISPR-based diagnostic for COVID-19
Tieying Hou, Weiqi Zeng, Minling Yang, Wenjing Chen, Lili Ren, Jingwen Ai, et al
A novel diagnostic tool using CRISPR to create an alternative to existing RT-PCR assay tests.

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