Does NeoCov spell more trouble amidst the ongoing pandemic? Wuhan scientists are in the news again and sadly this time as well, not for anything good. The warning from Wuhan talks about a more lethal and contagious Coronavirus type – “NeoCov”, which is just one mutation away from being able to enter human cells.
What is NeoCov?
Coronavirus is a big group of viruses responsible for wide-ranging diseases from the common cold to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). The term “NeoCov” loosely refers to “New Coronavirus” though it’s not a proven COVID-19 variant yet. The virus in contention isn’t a new virus, it was first detected in South African bats in 2011. It is kindred to MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) which in the 2010s was responsible for massive outbreaks in UAE, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea. A team of researchers in Wuhan (the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic) stated that in the future this virus could endanger the lives of humans.
As per their research findings, NeoCov is just one single mutation away from neing able to infect humans. NeoCov is highly contagious like SARS-CoV and extremely dangerous like MERS-CoV (fatality rate of 32.7%). They reported that if this virus spreads from bats and strikes humans, it could have a much higher infection and mortality rate than witnessed in any of the previous variants.
Should you worry about NeoCov?
No. NeoCov doesn’t attack humans in it’s current form. As per Wuhan University researchers, NeoCov found in the South African bat population still needs another mutation to infect humans and there are zero reported cases of NeoCov in humans as of now. Only if NeoCov acquires a specifically unique mutation that uses the Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor (present in both, humans and bats), can it infect humans like the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Dr. Dhiren Gupta (Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi) specified that NeoCov’s human contamination is only “scientific speculation” at this juncture. He added that “one out of three may die is just a hypothesis, which social media has made into headlines”.
What is WHO saying about NeoCov?
The World Health Organisation stated that 75% of contagious diseases in humans originated from wild animals and it’s working earnestly while teaming up with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to handle such zoonotic (animal origin) viruses. The Chinese research findings are yet to be peer-reviewed and hence the World Health Organisation stated that NeoCov discovered by Chinese researchers calls for further study to confirm if the virus is a threat to humans.
It’s true that NeoCov just needs one single mutation to jump species and is highly transmissible and dangerous. The world thus needs to be proactive and work as a single unit to counter any further pandemic threats. Currently, only three parties are in the coalition responsible for these findings (China, Russia & WHO), this circle needs to be further expanded. The Chinese report isn’t peer-reviewed; scientists from around the world need to band together to counter a threat of this proportion and understand NeoCov, its nature, & risks. This time we must push for more transparency, better science-based preparedness and pre-emptive logical & targeted strategies in place to fight this coming onslaught.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Does NeoCov exist?
Yes, NeoCov exists and it was discovered in the Neoromicia species of bats in 2011 in the Afro-Malagasy region.
Is NeoCov dangerous to humans?
NeoCov is not yet dangerous to humans, but it has the potential to be dangerous if it undergoes one specific mutation. Experts are stressing that there isn’t any NeoCov threat in the current form.
Why the world is suddenly talking about it?
Chinese scientists in Wuhan published a paper about how various Coronaviruses (similar to the MERS-CoV) reacted to different human receptors. The findings stated that NeoCov can use ACE2 receptors of bats but can’t use human ACE2 receptors unless a new mutation occurs. This paper hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet.
Can the NeoCov kill one in three people?
There isn’t any data or study to support this. This is only hearsay which perhaps started from the fact that NeoCov is close to MERS-Cov and was hence given to have a similar fatality rate.