NeoCov coronavirus found in bats may pose threat to humans in future, scientists caution

According to a study conducted by Chinese experts, a form of coronavirus known as NeoCov that is spreading among bats in South Africa may represent a danger to people in the future if it continues to evolve.

Following the publication of the preprint site BioRxiv of research that has not yet been peer-reviewed, it was discovered that NeoCov is closely connected to the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), a viral illness that was initially discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Infections with coronaviruses, a broad family of viruses, may cause a variety of disorders, ranging from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) (SARS).

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Wuhan University said that NeoCov was discovered in a colony of bats in South Africa and that it has propagated solely among these animals to this point in time.

According to the researchers that conducted the study, while NeoCov does not infect people in its present form, subsequent changes might make it potentially hazardous. As the study’s authors put it, “we were surprised to discover that NeoCoV and its near related, PDF-2180-CoV, can easily employ particular forms of bat Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and, less favourably, human ACE2 to gain access.”

ACE2 is a receptor protein found on cells that serves as an entrance site for the coronavirus, allowing it to attach to and infect a broad variety of cells.

NeoCov coronavirus

In their statement, they said that their research “demonstrates the first occurrence of ACE2 use in MERS-related viruses,” which “sheds light on a possible bio-safety concern of the human emergence of an ACE2 utilising “MERS-CoV-2″ with both a high death rate and a high transmission rate.”

The researchers also discovered that antibodies directed against SARS-CoV-2 or MERS-CoV did not work in the presence of a NeoCov infection.

The study’s authors concluded that given the significant changes in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) areas of the SARS-CoV-2 variations, particularly the severely mutated Omicron variant, “it is possible that these viruses have a latent capacity to infect people via further adaptation,” the study’s authors concluded.

Receptor-binding domains (RBDs) are essential components of viruses because they enable them to engage with host receptors, allowing them to enter cells and cause infection.

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