Chinese scientists operating in Wuhan have discovered a novel Coronavirus strain ‘NeoCov’ in a group of bats in South Africa that has the potential to cause more devastation than any other known Coronavirus variant, including the one that started the COVID-19 outbreak.

The newfound Coronavirus, named as NeoCov, is closely connected to MERS-COV, a Coronavirus that was initially discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, a viral respiratory ailment.

MERS-COV is a member of the Beta-COV lineage C, a family of Coronaviruses with a death rate of 35 percent, which is 23 times greater than COVID-19’s fatality rate of 1.5 percent.

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Though NeoCov is now solely affecting bats, it might be transmitted to humans with a single mutation. If that happens, it might be more infectious and more deadly than all previous Coronavirus variants altogether.

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Laboratory testing has revealed that the new strain makes the antibodies produced by SARS-COV-2 and MERS-COV ineffective, therefore immunity developed by past infection or vaccination with existing Coronaviruses may be insufficient to defend against NeoCov.

These are the results of recent research conducted by a group of scientists headquartered in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei region, which is thought to be the birthplace of SARS-COV-2, the Coronavirus that causes COVID-19 infection. The research has not yet been peer-reviewed, but it is available at bioRxiv, an open-access biological sciences preprint site.