In the midst of an increase in Omicron cases in several countries, there are reports of another likely variant emerging from China that has been linked to MERS. China has issued a warning about NeoCoV, a mutation related to the Middle East respiratory syndrome MERS-CoV that has been linked to outbreaks in the Middle East in 2012 and 2015.
The new warning comes on the heels of a yet-to-be peer-reviewed study published in preprint on the bioRxiv website, which was discovered in a bat population in South Africa and has so far spread exclusively among these animals. The researchers discovered that NeoCoV and its close relative, PDF-2180-CoV, can enter the body via some types of bat Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and human ACE2.
Scientists are concerned that the new coronavirus may bind to the ACE2 receptor differently than the COVID-19 pathogen. The virus could carry a combination of MERS-high CoV's mortality rate and the current SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus's high transmission rate. According to a report on the Russian website Sputnik, the high mortality rate of MERS could result in "one in every three infected people dying on average."
So far, no one has been infected by NeoCoV, and scientists are urging more research to determine whether or not it can infect humans. The World Health Organization (WHO), which detects and reports mutations and new virus outbreaks, has not responded to the reports.
The report sparked panic, as the world remains concerned about future coronavirus outbreaks. The WHO-reported Omicron outbreak in November has resulted in a significant increase in cases worldwide, with infections now being reported on all continents.