A NeoCov coronavirus circulating in bats in South Africa could pose a future threat to humans if it mutates further, according to a study by Chinese researchers.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
According to the study, there is currently no discussion of the emergence of a new coronavirus ready to actively spread in the population. The risks identified by Chinese experts are potential and require further investigation.
In its current form, NeoCov does not infect humans, but further mutations could make it potentially dangerous, the researchers said. The researchers also noted that antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2 or MERS-CoV did not cross-neutralize NeoCov infection. The receptor-binding domain (RBD) is an essential part of the virus that allows it to dock with host receptors, enter cells, and cause infection.
Scientists say the virus is a close relative of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV), but it enters human cells in the same way as SARS-CoV-2.