Recently, a single molecular change in the lab enabled a coronavirus called Neocov to “efficiently infect” human cells using the same pathway that the SARS-CoV-2 uses to infect human cells.
About the virus
- It has so far only been seen in bats and no instances have been reported in people, but being closely related to the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses traditionally more lethal but less transmissible than Sarscov2 the study has raised concern that this too may lethally proliferate in people.
- Experts however say that such fears are unwarranted.
- A coronavirus known to be 85% similar to MERS coronaviruses, infected animal cells. MERS has a mortality rate of around 35%, far more than the coroanviruses.
MERS-CoV and NeoCoV
- The study reports that despite their similarity, both use different receptors to infect cells.
- The bat coronavirus NeoCoV was found to use bat ACE2 receptors for efficiently entering cells.
- The interaction between NeoCoV and bat ACE2 receptors is different from what is seen in other coronaviruses that utilize ACE2.
- However, specific mutations artificially created in the receptor-binding domain of NeoCoV can enhance its efficiency to interact with human ACE2 receptors.
- These mutations have not yet been seen in NeoCov isolates from natural settings.
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