Wuhan, the city where coronavirus is said to have emerged in year 2019, is once again making the headlines but not for a good reason.
Scientists have warned of a lethal variant called ‘NeoCov’ which is said to be only one mutation away to infiltrate human cells. The variant carries the combination of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS)-CoV mortality rate (where one in every three infected persons may die) and the current SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus high transmission rate.
According to the scientists from Wuhan University in China, NeoCov can penetrate human cells in the same way as the SARS-CoV-2 virus. “It is only one mutation away from becoming dangerous for humans,” researchers said in a paper posted on preprint website bioRxiv which has not been peer-reviewed yet.
NeoCoV has been discovered among bats in South Africa and has only been known to spread among these animals to date. The MERS-CoV and several bat coronaviruses employ ‘DPP4’ as their functional receptors. However, the receptor for NeoCoV, the closest MERS-CoV relative yet discovered in bats, remains “enigmatic”.
The World Health Organisation on Friday said that the NeoCov variant requires further study.
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.
The organisation said that the source of 75% of infectious diseases in humans was wild animals. “Coronaviruses are often found in animals, including in bats which have been identified as a natural reservoir of many of these viruses,” the global body said.
According to the study, NeoCov can penetrate human cells in the same way as the COVID-19 virus. “NeoCov is only one mutation away from becoming dangerous for humans,” the researchers said in a yet-to-be peer-reviewed study posted on the preprint repository BioRxiv. The study is yet to be peer reviewed.