Scientists warn that a coronavirus found in bats may one day threaten humans

NeoCov is closely related to the Middle East respiratory syndrome, a viral infection that was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

According to a study by Chinese researchers, a type of coronavirus known as NeoCov that spreads among bats in South Africa could pose a threat to humans in the future if it mutates further.

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NeoCov is closely related to the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), a viral disease first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, was recently posted on the preprint repository BioRxiv.

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that can cause a variety of illnesses, from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

coronavirus found in bats
coronavirus found in bats

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NeoCov was discovered in a population of bats in South Africa, according to researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Wuhan University, and has only spread among these animals so far.

NeoCov does not infect humans in its current form, but further mutations could make it potentially harmful, according to the researchers. “We unexpectedly discovered in this study that NeoCoV and its close relative, PDF-2180-CoV, can use some types of bat Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and, less favourably, human ACE2 for entry,” the study’s authors wrote.

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Scientists warn that
Scientists warn that

ACE2 is a cell receptor protein that allows the coronavirus to enter and infect a wide range of cells.

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

Antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2 or MERS-CoV could not cross-neutralize NeoCov infection, according to the researchers.

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“Given the extensive mutations in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) regions of the SARS-CoV-2 variants, particularly the heavily mutated Omicron variant,” the study’s authors added, “these viruses may hold a latent potential to infect humans through further adaptation.”

A virus’s receptor-binding domain allows it to dock with body receptors and gain entry into cells, leading to infection.

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