Ground Report | New Delhi: What are the dangers of NeoCov Variant; Chinese scientists have discovered a new bat coronavirus, NeoCov. It is related to the causative agent of Middle East fever MERS and is able to enter cells in much the same way as SARS-CoV-2.
According to a new study published on January 25 on the bioRxiv site, the virus has an enzyme of the same type as that of SARS-CoV-2, in particular the ACE2 receptor, which allows entry into the lungs. However, this enzyme specific to NeoCov acts only in animals. The existence of this coronavirus remains very worrying, however, since researchers warn that a single mutation of the NeoCov virus genome would be enough for it to acquire the ability to infiltrate human cells.
Experts are sounding the alarm: NeoCoV can enter human cells in the same way as SARS-CoV-2, which caused a global pandemic. In this study, we unexpectedly found that NeoCoV and its closest relative PDF-2180-CoV can effectively use some types of angiotensin-converting enzyme in some types of bats (ACE2) and, less favourably, human ACE2 to enter the body.
What are the dangers of NeoCov Variant
Researchers from China, led by Wuhan University professor Yan Huang, have discovered a new coronavirus in South Africa that is potentially dangerous to humans. In addition, they warned about the dangers of NeoCov and the risk of it entering the human population.
Experts said that in order to enter the human body, the virus must mutate. They noted that at the moment it only poses a threat to bats.
The researchers noted that NeoCoV and its close relative PDF-2180-CoV are able to use certain species of bat and human ACE2 for entry. They explained that the causative agent of Middle East fever infects the human lungs and enters the body using the DPP4 receptor, not ACE2.
At the same time, NeoCov binds to ACE2 in a different way, and not in the way that the causative agent COVID-19 and other coronaviruses do. Therefore, NeoCov is not affected by either antibody from SARS-CoV-2 or protein molecules that suppress the Middle East fever MERS. It is this factor that makes the pathogen especially dangerous in case of possible penetration into the human population.
Biosecurity risk to humans
Scientists said that the “relatives” of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), like SARS-CoV-2, enter the human body thanks to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 – ACE2. Because of this circumstance, a group of infections creates a “biosecurity risk” for humans.
NeoCoV is a relative of MERS-CoV, the causative agent of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome that broke out in the 2010s. Until now, there are no drugs or vaccines that would save from MERS-CoV. Meanwhile, people die from it more often than from SARS.
Study authors fear NeoCoV could be especially dangerous for humans due to the combination of the lethality of MERS-CoV and the high spread rate of SARS-CoV-2. The authors of the study emphasize that while the nature of NeoCoV remains largely mysterious. Now their work is in the status of a preprint, it will still be checked by experts.
End of the pandemic
Experts give different predictions about the end of the coronavirus pandemic. Now she is going through another peak of the incidence of COVID-19. On January 21, a record number of coronavirus cases was registered in the world in a day. The figure was the highest since the beginning of the pandemic.
World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge admitted that it could end after the omicron strain. Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Sokolov doubted this forecast. He believes that the coronavirus will turn into something similar to the flu.
At the same time, a specialist in especially dangerous infections, an immunologist Vladislav Zhemchugov, believes that the coronavirus will leave people for animals. He admitted that the omicron strain would be the last option, after which COVID-19 would change its host and continue to spread in animal populations.
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