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.
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.
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 The research has not yet been peer-reviewed, but it is available at bioRxiv, an open-access biological sciences preprint site.