Home / Science / News /  NeoCov: What WHO says on this new coronavirus variant possibly deadlier than previous strains

With scientists from China's Wuhan flagging a concern regarding a more contagious and possibly deadlier strain of coronavirus NeoCov, World Health Organization (WHO) asserted that it still needs to be studied whether it poses threats for humans. 

The scientists have clarified, NeoCov is related to the Middle East respiratory syndrome or MERS-coronavirus. “The virus is discovered in a bat population in South Africa and is currently spreading only among animals," the scientists said and further warned, “Just one mutation is enough for the virus to be able to infiltrate human cells."

What did WHO say? 

 "Whether the virus detected in the study will pose a risk for humans will require further study," WHO told Russian news agency Tass. 

"Animals, particularly wild animals are the source of more than 75% of all emerging infectious diseases in humans, many of which are caused by novel viruses. Coronaviruses are often found in animals, including in bats which have been identified as a natural reservoir of many of these viruses," WHO said.

WHO is aware of the new finding of Wuhan scientists and is in touch with the World Organization for Animal Health, the Food and Agriculture Organization to respond to this.

What are the scientists saying?

NeoCoV was found in a population of bats in South Africa and to date has spread exclusively among these animals. However, the study, not yet peer-reviewed and released on the bioRxiv website, found, NeoCoV and its close relative, PDF-2180-CoV, can use some types of bat Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and human ACE2 for entry.

Just one mutation is enough for the virus to be able to infiltrate human cells, claim scientists. 

According to Chinese researchers, NeoCoV carries the potential combination of MERS-high CoV’s mortality rate (one in every three infected person dies) and the current SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus’s high transmission rate.

What is MERS-CoV virus?

The MERS-CoV virus is similar to SARS-CoV-2 in terms of symptoms like fever, cough and shortness of breath. The disease was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and was prevalent in the middle-eastern countries in 2012 and 2015.

 Most of the human cases of MERS-CoV infections spread through human-to-human infections. Many people have lost their lives due to MERS-CoV. 

Can Covid vaccines protect us from NeoCov?

The researchers further noted that infection with NeoCov could not be cross-neutralised by antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2 or MERS-CoV.

"Considering the extensive mutations in the RBD regions of the SARS-CoV-2 variants, especially the heavily mutated Omicron variant, these viruses may hold a latent potential to infect humans through further adaptation," the authors of the study added.

(With inputs from agencies)

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