Explainer: Is NeoCov A New variant of Coronavirus like Omicron?

Coronavirus Explainer

Chinese researchers have said that they have found a type of coronavirus that spreads among bats in South Africa. It is called NeoCov. 

With the emergence of their findings, News articles mentioned NeoCov as the new deadly variant of Coronavirus which causes Covid-19 disease. 

Users have been claiming NeoCov is going to be the next threat after Omicron wreaked havoc. Some even claimed that World Health Organization (WHO) had issued a warning that if NeoCov spreads, three people may die each day. 

The big question: Is NeoCov a new deadly variant of Coronavirus that causes Covid-19 disease?

The answer: It’s complicated.

Let us explain what NeoCov is in the first place.

What is the Study?

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Wuhan University have published a study that reports on a coronavirus called NeoCoV. They found it among the bats in South Africa.

They published it on the preprint repository BioRxiv on 25 January 2022. It is a yet-to-be peer-reviewed study.

What is NeoCov?

NeoCov is a misnomer because it has not yet been proven as a variant of SARs-Cov-2, reports Times of India. NeoCov is closely related to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). MERS is a viral disease that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

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Covid-19 vs MERS

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which we are suffering right now, is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 

But according to the Print, NeoCov is genetically 85 percent similar to the MERS-CoV virus.

These are types of coronaviruses that can infect people are:

  • MERS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS)
  • SARS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS)
  • SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19)

Hence, it is not accurate to say NeoCov is a new variant like Omicron.

How dangerous is NeoCov?

There are no known human cases of NeoCoV. NeoCov does not infect humans in its current form but further mutations may make it potentially harmful.

“Our study demonstrates the first case of ACE2 usage in MERS-related viruses, shedding light on a potential bio-safety threat of the human emergence of an ACE2 using “MERS-CoV-2″ with both high fatality and transmission rate,” researchers said.

The researchers further noted that infection with NeoCov could not be cross-neutralized by antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2 or MERS-CoV.

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What does WHO say?

World Health Organization is aware of the detection of NeoCov. WHO said “the virus requires further study to ascertain if it poses a risk to humans.

“Whether the virus detected in the study will pose a risk for humans will require further study. Coronaviruses are often found in animals, including in bats which have been identified as a natural reservoir of many of these viruses,” WHO officials was quoted as saying by TASS.

What are Variants?

According to the WHO website, viruses can change and evolve as they spread between people over time. When these changes become significantly different from the original virus, they are known as “variants.” 

To identify variants, scientists map the genetic material of viruses (known as sequencing) and then look for differences between them to see if they have changed.

There are two types of variants:

Variant of Interest: If it has mutations that are suspected or known to cause significant changes, and is circulating widely.

Variant of Concern: A variant of interest becomes a variant of concern if it is known to spread more easily, cause more severe disease, escape the body’s immune response.

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NeoCov is not a variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. Further study is required to determine its true harmfulness to human health. In its current form, it is more akin to MERS, not Covid-19.


Title:Explainer: Is NeoCov A New variant of Coronavirus like Omicron?

By: Fact Crescendo Team 

Result: Explainer

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