The World Health Organisation today said that the NeoCov coronavirus, discovered by Chinese scientists, requires further study.
A team of Wuhan researchers found a new kind of coronavirus, NeoCov, among bats in South Africa. In a study, the researchers said that the virus may pose a threat to humans in the future.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The WHO said that it is aware of the development, but the virus requires further study to ascertain if it poses a risk to humans.
“Whether the virus detected in the study will pose a risk for humans will require further study,” the health body was quoted as saying by Russian news agency TASS.
The organisation said that the source of 75% of infectious diseases in humans was wild animals. “Coronaviruses are often found in animals, including in bats which have been identified as a natural reservoir of many of these viruses,” the global body said.
It said it is working actively to tackle such emerging zoonotic viruses.
WHO also thanked the Chinese researchers for sharing their research in preprint.
According to the study, NeoCov can penetrate human cells in the same way as the COVID-19 virus. “NeoCov is only one mutation away from becoming dangerous for humans,” the researchers said in a yet-to-be peer-reviewed study posted on the preprint repository BioRxiv
The virus is closely related to the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), a viral disease that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.