The new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and COVID-19 for translators and interpreters

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Disclaimer: mind that this is by no means meant to be any kind of medical advice; if you are unwell, seek medical advice with the designated healthcare institutions in your area.

About the names

The not-so-new-anymore coronavirus is called SARS-CoV-2. It is the same in English and in French (not SRAS-CoV-2 in French!) It is associated with the disease called COVID-19 (from ‘Coronavirus Disease 2019’). Some sources tend to use these two terms somewhat interchangeably. Even though this is comprehensible, it is not correct (translators and editors, beware!)

You may come across the term ‘2019-nCoV’ (from ‘2019 novel Coronavirus’). This is one of the ways the SARS-CoV-2 virus was called before it was given its official name. It should not be called this way anymore.

Diagnostic tests: PCR or RT-PCR?

Many people talk about ‘PCR tests for COVID’ or use the terms ‘PCR’ and ‘RT-PCR’ interchangeably as if ‘PCR’ was just a shorter name for ‘RT-PCR’. Mind that this is not correct.

PCR, a polymerase chain reaction, is a technique to amplify specific fragments of DNA in a sample. RT-PCR is a PCR preceeded by a step of reverse transcription (RT) which allows to make DNA based on an RNA template first. Sometimes we need it because we want to look for specific RNA and not DNA sequences in a sample. This is the case of molecular testing for SARS-CoV-2. This virus is made of RNA, so we need to look for characteristic RNA (and not DNA) fragments in order to detect its presence in a sample. If we looked for DNA of this virus, all people would test negative since it does not have any!

However much we may want it, it is not using the wrong test that will stop the pandemic, so use the right words, too. SARS-CoV-2 molecular tests are based on RT-PCR, not just PCR. Do not forget these two important letters in the beginning of the test name. They do make a difference.

Acronyms and abbreviations used in the context of COVID-19 and coronaviruses

Abbreviations… Multiple meanings, careless use, and all context-dependent! Translator’s nightmare, isn’t it? On top of that, COVID-19 adding pace to the terminological creative flurry of scientists, doctors .. and anybody concerned by the topic. But do not worry! At Science to the Point, we love making it all easier for you.

Below we provide a list of acronyms and abbreviations you can come across when working on text related to the current pandemic and its culprit. Of course, all must be interpreted in context. We provide the most common meanings as used in the context of COVID-19 and coronaviruses. All triple-checked!

ABHRalcohol-based hand rub
ACE2angiotensin-converting enzyme 2
ACH air changes per hour
AEFI adverse event following immunisation
AESI adverse event of special interest
AGPsaerosol-generating procedures
AHabsolute humidity
AIIRairborne infection isolation room
ARDSacute respiratory distress syndrome
BNPB-type natriuretic peptide
bpbase pair(s)
BSLbiosafety level (e.g. when referring to a lab)


CAPcommunity-acquired pneumonia
CBCcomplete blood count
CC50 the 50% cytotoxic concentration
CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US)
CFR case fatality rate
CIA chemiluminescent immunoassay
CoVs coronaviruses
CP convalescent plasma
CXRchest X-ray


There are currently over a hundred of abbreviations in our COVID-19-related files and there will be even more!
We keep updating our database with every scientific read and each specialist conference we follow.

And we are happy to share it!

Just send us an e-mail to get the complete list. You can also opt in for future updates.
(It is free and you will be able to opt out at any moment)

Questions? Suggestions?