Scientists from China’s Wuhan, where the Covid-19 virus was first discovered in 2019, have warned of a new type of coronavirus ‘NeoCov’ in South Africa, stated to have a high death and transmission rate, according to a report by the Russian news agency Sputnik.
However, according to the report, the NeoCov virus is not new. Associated with the MERS-CoV virus, it was discovered in outbreaks in Middle Eastern countries in 2012 and 2015 and is similar to the the SARS-CoV-2, which causes coronavirus in humans.
While NeoCoV was discovered in a bat population in South Africa and has only been known to spread among these animals, a new unpeered study published as a pre-print on the bioRxiv website discovered that NeoCoV and its close relative PDF-2180-CoV can infect humans.
According to researchers from Wuhan University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Biophysics, only one mutation is required for the virus to infiltrate human cells. The research findings stated that the novel coronavirus poses a risk because it binds to the ACE2 receptor differently than the coronavirus pathogen. As a result, neither antibodies nor protein molecules produced by people with respiratory diseases or who have been immunised can protect against NeoCoV.
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.
Following a briefing on NeoCoV, experts from the Russian State Virology and Biotechnology Research Center issued a statement on Thursday, the report stated.
“The Vector research centre is aware of the data obtained by Chinese researchers on the NeoCoV coronavirus. At the moment, the issue is not the emergence of a new coronavirus capable of actively spreading among humans,” it said, adding that the potential risks outlined needed to be studied and probed further.