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New Bat Coronavirus, NeoCoV, Threatens Humans

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EIRNS—The newly discovered coronavirus, called NeoCoV, found by a team of Chinese scientists amongst bats in South Africa, poses the possibility of a more transmissible version of the virulent MERS-CoV-2 (a precursor of SARS-CoV-2). The discovery comes out of ongoing scientific work monitoring and investigating mutations and variations amongst other living species that may breed a viral strain that can cross over into humans. It is exactly the sort of collaborative work amongst nations and scientists called for in February, 2020, by the joint team of WHO and Chinese scientists investigating the SARS-CoV-2 that hit Wuhan, China.

The lead author of “Close relatives of MERS-CoV-2 in bats use ACE2 as their functional receptors,” is Qing Xiong, from the Institute for Vaccine Research and Modern Virology Research Center at Wuhan University’s College of Life Sciences. The paper was just entered into the bioRxiv electronic library, and has not yet been peer-reviewed. The scientists find that the coronavirus in the South African bats is closely related to the MERS coronavirus; however, no previous MERS-like coronavirus — that is, before NeoCoV — has employed, for a receptor, the bat Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). NeoCov prefers the bat ACE2, but also “less favorably, human ACE2 for entry.” Hence, the study’s conclusion: “Our study demonstrates the first case of ACE2 usage in MERS-related viruses, shedding light on a potential bio-safety threat of the human emergence of an ACE2 using ‘MERS_CoV-2’ with both high fatality and transmission rate.”

The mutations are occurring, whether or not countries collaborate to identify such threats ahead of time. Similar to the danger of various large rocks and such space debris hurtling through our solar system, also with tracking viral developments, it takes some statesman-like maturity for countries to act before it is too late. Such is the minimal level of national leadership, established as the real ‘new normal.’ [dms]