The world was first made aware of the advent of the lethal viral illness COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in 2019. (Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2 is a strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19).
The first instance, or patient zero, of this virus, was recorded in the Chinese city of Wuhan. However, the virus quickly spread to several other nations with mutations and strains. Currently, two significant hazardous COVID-19 variations are hovering above countries and wreaking havoc: the Delta and the newly discovered Omicron variant.
Even as the globe grapples with SARS-CoV-2 and its variations, scientists in Wuhan, where the virus is thought to have originated, have warned of a new coronavirus strain that might be ‘deadlier’ and more hazardous than the COVID-19 version.
This new coronavirus strain, dubbed NeoCov, has two concerning characteristics: it is highly transmissible and has a high death rate. According to the Wuhan experts, Neo-Cov is expected to kill one out of three patients. Should we be concerned? Can it also infect those who have been adequately vaccinated? Here’s what we know so far about the very contagious virus.
NeoCov: Is It A New Variant of COVID-19?
No, NeoCov is not a new COVID-19 version. It is a novel type of coronavirus, similar to SARS-CoV-2, and was initially detected in South Africa. The NeoCov strain has a high incidence of mortality and transmission. It is the most closely related coronavirus to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
This coronavirus strain, according to studies, is linked to the MERS-CoV virus, which was initially found in outbreaks in Middle Eastern nations in 2012 and 2015. So far, NeoCov has only been shown to infect animals; however, Wuhan scientists have warned that this new strain of coronavirus can also infect people in recent research that has yet to be published.
Should We Be Worried?
As previously stated, NeoCov has only been seen infecting mammals, particularly bats. However, as per the study issued on the bioRxiv website and cited by the Russian news outlet Sputnik, Neo-Cov and its near relative PDF-2180-CoV can potentially infect people.
According to experts, this new coronavirus strain is just one mutation away from becoming a virus that can readily enter the human body and infect the organs. According to the Wuhan researchers, the NeoCov coronavirus strain may enter human cells the same manner as SARS-CoV-2 can.
“It is merely one mutation away from becoming deadly for humans,” researchers said in a manuscript that was placed on the preprint website bioRxiv but had not yet been peer-reviewed.
Even though this variety is one mutation away from being deadly for humans, doctors estimate that one in every three people infected with NeoCov will die due to the problems.
This is because NeoCov can combine the high transmission rate of COVID-19 with the high fatality rate of MERS-CoV. According to the researchers, NeoCov has a fatality rate of roughly 33%, which means that one out of every three infected patients dies.
What Are The Symptoms of NeoCov?
Because scientists are still investigating the new strain, no new symptoms have been recorded thus far. However, even though it is known to spread among animals, experts believe NeoCov exhibits symptoms comparable to SARS-CoV-2 and might infect people.
Fever, loss of smell and taste, diarrhea, runny nose, congestion, chest discomfort, persistent cough, headache, body soreness, muscular pain, and other symptoms are frequent COVID symptoms.
Will Existing Vaccines or Covid-19 Immunity Work Against NeoCov?
According to the Chinese researchers, they “unexpectedly discovered that NeoCoV and its near sibling, PDF-2180-CoV, may efficiently employ specific forms of bat Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and, less favorably, human ACE2 for entrance.”
The study “shows the first occurrence of ACE2 usage in MERS-related viruses, giving light on a possible bio-safety concern of a human emergence of an ACE2 utilizing ‘MERS-CoV-2’ with both high mortality and transmission rate.” Notably, according to the researchers, antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2 or MERS-CoV could not cross-neutralize the infection.
To summarize, the study discovered that existing immunity or antibodies obtained through immunizations or earlier Covid-19 infections might not be beneficial in avoiding NeoCov disease.
This is because NeoCov interacts with the ACE2 receptor differently than SARS-CoV-2. “This is a profound and intriguing discovery, but estimating the direct hazard of this specific strain is quite challenging.
However, we can say that there are a plethora of these strains circulating in the wild, and we need to investigate this plethora, this genetic variation, and encourage research in this field “Sergey Alkhovsky, head of the Gamaleya Center’s Biotechnology Laboratory, was cited as saying.
What Is WHO Saying?
While research suggests it can mutate, the World Health Organization (WHO) says more research is needed. According to the WHO, more research is required to determine whether the NeoCov coronavirus, which was recently found in bats in South Africa, poses a hazard to people.
In a statement to the media, the World Health Organization stated, “Whether the virus found in the research will represent a risk to humans will require additional investigation.”
It also said that it “collaborates closely” with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to “monitor and respond to the threat of new zoonotic viruses.”
The WHO also informed the media that its specialists were aware of the study and expressed gratitude to the experimenters for “sharing their findings in a preprint.”
“Animals, particularly wild animals, are the source of more than 75% of all developing infectious illnesses in humans, with many of these diseases caused by novel viruses.
Coronaviruses have been detected in various species, including bats, which have been recognized as a natural reservoir for many of these viruses, “According to the global organization.