While the world is grappling with the several variants of Covid-19, a new study by Chinese researchers claimed a type of coronavirus, NeoCov, which spreads among bats in South Africa may pose threat to humans in the future if it mutates further.
The findings of the yet-to-be peer-reviewed study—conducted by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Wuhan University—triggered an alarm around the world and the online space was ablaze with chatter around NeoCov. In India, "NeoCov" became the top search term by Friday with more than five lakh searches, according to Google.
Given the alarm, the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday issued a statement saying it is aware of the development and the virus requires further study to ascertain if it poses a risk to humans.
What is NeoCov?
NeoCov is a virus variant linked to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which is one of the seven known coronaviruses that can infect humans. The initial period of the last decade recorded several cases of MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and South Korea. According to WHO, MERS-CoV infection has a fatality rate of 35 percent.
Experts have pointed out NeoCov is not a new virus and was identified around 2013 in bats in South Africa while looking for ancestors of the MERS CoV. They add that NeoCov has not infected a human so far.
What does the research say?
The research paper maintains NeoCoV has so far been found only in bats and the virus variant will be able to infect humans only if it undergoes a particular type (T510F) of mutation.
"In this study, we unexpectedly found NeoCoV and its close relative, PDF-2180-CoV, can efficiently use some types of bat Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and, less favourably, human ACE2 for entry," the authors of the study noted. Thus, NeoCoV should not be a cause of immediate concern.
(Edited by : Yashi Gupta)