The ominous name NeoCoV led to the most obvious worry: OMG, here’s another variant of the coronavirus out to get us just as we kind of seem to be getting off the Omicron variant-induced third wave.
From Alpha to Delta to Omicron, a bunch of Greek letters have suddenly entered our lives recently, courtesy Covid-19. Caused by a novel coronavirus first reported in China in late 2019 and later formally named SARS-CoV-2, Covid-19 has held the world hostage for two years now. The Covid-19 pandemic has also, understandably, left people with a perpetual fear: What is that next virus that will cause yet another pandemic, lead to massive deaths, and shut down lives all over the globe?
A team of Wuhan researchers found a new kind of coronavirus, NeoCov, among bats in South Africa. In a study, the researchers said that the virus may pose a threat to humans in the future.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The WHO said that it is aware of the development, but the virus requires further study to ascertain if it poses a risk to humans.
What is NeoCov?
NeoCoV is a term loosely being used to refer to a virus variant linked to MERS-CoV. NeoCoV is not a new coronavirus, and it – along with Mers – belongs to a distinctly different genera (a type of subclassification) of coronaviruses known as merbecovirus. This is the type to which the other common cold coronaviruses HKU1 and OC43 belong. Recombination though not impossible, it is rarely seen.
MERS-CoV belongs to the larger coronavirus family and is one of the seven known coronaviruses that can infect humans. MERS-CoV caused large outbreaks in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and South Korea during the 2010s. According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 35% of reported patients with MERS-CoV infection have died. NeoCoV is a possible variant of this particular coronavirus.
Research paper verdict –
1. NeoCoV is the closest MERS-CoV relative yet discovered and is found in bats
2. NeoCoV can efficiently use some types of bat ACE2 (a type of cells that in biology are called receptors) to cause an infection
3. NeoCoV can infect human ACE2 cells after a T510F mutation
4. One in three people infected could die from NeoCoV.
5. The virus is reportedly one mutation away from being a major threat to humans.
What makes us not to worry?
Essentially, what the research paper is saying is that NeoCoV, which has so far been found only in bats, may be able to infect humans if it undergoes a particular type of mutation. That’s a lot of hypothesising. A lot of hypothesising that’s based on a laboratory study that is yet to be peer-reviewed, which is a rigorous process that involves experts not connected to the study in question analysing the findings and methods of the original researchers.
The idea that NeoCoV may be able to infect human beings is in the realms of theory right now and so, should not be a cause of immediate concern.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that further studies are need to ascertain whether the NeoCov will pose a risk to humans, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.
WHO added that it works closely with other agencies like the World Organization for Animal Health to respond to the dangers of “emerging zoonotic viruses”, according to TASS.
Meanwhile, in India, health experts say that there is no new risk of NeoCov jumping from animals to humans.
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