Hungarian researchers have succeeded in determining the details of the spread of the coronavirus epidemic in Hungary. With the support of IT experts from the Computer and Automation Research Institute (SZTAKI), which is a member of the Eötvös Loránd Research Network, and use of the institute’s cloud capacity, researchers from the University of Pécs’s János Szentágothai Research Center have been able to define the details of the spread of the coronavirus epidemic in Hungary 50 times faster than originally planned. Since the start of the epidemic, the Pécs research group have been examining pathogens, first defining the genetic make-up of the virus, before monitoring the variations and spread of its genomes.

During this joint effort, the genome data from virus samples taken from more than 100 different locations and times have been processed in 500 million steps. Using this information, the researchers mapped the virus in a short time and used it to determine the details of the spread of the epidemic in Hungary.

With the help of SZTAKI experts, researchers were able to convert the tasks needed for research in less than a day for the servers of the MTA Cloud operated by the domestic SZTAKI cloud. Tasks based on complex phylogenetic algorithms and requiring rapid processing of large amounts of data were able to be performed on the SZTAKI platform 50 times faster than originally planned, thanks to which the partial results could be received in just a few hours.

The results suggest that the virus was imported to Hungary from several countries, predominantly from Western Europe. The research also confirmed the need for travel restrictions, as in mid-March, when the restrictions were introduced, the local spread of the virus infection could already be observed in several parts of the country.

SZTAKI cloud also involved in international project

In March, SZTAKI, together with the Wigner Physics Research Center, offered the capacity of the Hungarian research cloud, the MTA Cloud, with thousands of processors and several terabytes of memory, to Hungarian virus researchers. There are already domestic projects in progress, but more are expected.

In parallel with domestic research, the free capacity of the cloud has also been extended to the international Folding@home project, where several epidemiological and virus-related calculations are being performed. SZTAKI machines have performed more than 8,000 ‘work units’, or calculation tasks, in the last few weeks. By comparison, an average home computer would have taken about four to five years to perform the same number of tasks.