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NeoCov virus found in bats: Are humans at risk? WHO responds

Chinese researchers, in a study that is yet to be peer-reviewed, have said that NeoCov could pose a danger to humans if it mutates further.

January 29, 2022 / 11:06 AM IST
NeoCov has been found to be closely related to the virus that caused the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). (Representational image)

NeoCov has been found to be closely related to the virus that caused the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). (Representational image)


Chinese researchers, in a study that is yet to be peer-reviewed, have said that a NeoCov, a type of coronavirus detected in bats in South Africa, could pose a danger to humans if it mutates further.

The study, available on preprint repository BioRxiv, has found that NeoCov resembles the virus that caused the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that further studies are need to ascertain whether the NeoCov will pose a risk to humans, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.

WHO added that it works closely with other agencies like the World Organization for Animal Health to respond to the dangers of “emerging zoonotic viruses”, according to TASS.

Meanwhile, in India, health experts say that there is no new risk of NeoCov jumping from animals to humans.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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“The chances of it jumping I would say is 0.001, which statistically means unlikely,” Dr Jayprakash Muliyil, chairperson of the National Institute of Epidemiology’s Scientific Advisory Committee told The Indian Express. “We live with so many pathogens; there is no need to worry about it. It is good for those who want to scare people.”

Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology Director Anurag Agrawal told the newspaper that it is important to continue monitoring pathogens.

“Good to be aware but nothing to worry about, contrary to floating headlines,” he added.

Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of Maharashtra’s COVID-19 task force, tweeted: “NeoCov is an old virus closely related to MERS Cov which enter cells via DPP4 receptors. What's new? NeoCov can use ace2 receptors of bats but they can't use human ace2 receptor unless a new mutation occurs. Everything else is hype.”



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Moneycontrol News
first published: Jan 29, 2022 10:58 am
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