Misleading Reports, Viral Messages Spread Misinformation About NeoCoV

3 min read
Hindi Female

Misleading headlines by news organisations and social media posts have created panic about the "newly-discovered" virus called NeoCoV.

While some posts said that the virus killed "1 in 3 people", others called is a "highly infectious variant of COVID-19".

We went through the study that the reports were based on and didn't find any such conclusions. Moreover, the study is yet to be peer-reviewed. NeoCoV is not a "new" virus nor is it a variant of COVID-19. So far, there have been no confirmed cases of NeoCoV in humans.

  • NeoCoV is not a new virus, it was first found in 2014.

  • The virus is only found in bats and has not infected or killed a human bieng so far.

  • The new study that talk about the NeoCoV's potential to infect humans in not peer-reviwed.

  • NeoCoV in not a new variant of COVID-19


Misleading Headlines Create Panic

News organisations Times Now and News18 both said in their headlines that NeoCoV killed "one in three".

  • An archive of the article can be found here.

    (Source: News18/Screenshot)

"Coronavirus: Is the newly found NeoCov COVID variant by Wuhan scientists the deadliest of all COVID strains?", said The Times of India headline.

All the three reports seemed to be based on a report published by Russian news agency Sputnik News. The report in Sputnik neither called NeoCoV a variant of COVID-19 nor did it say that the virus has a fatality rate of 33 percent (1 in 3).

The Sputnik report said that since NeoCoV is closely related to Middle East respiratory syndrome MERS-CoV, it has a potential to have a mortality rate similar to MERS. The report also noted that the virus is similar to SARS-CoV-2 (that causes COVID-19) in several ways but it didn't say that it was a variant of COVID-19. It also clearly said that the virus was not a new one.

What is NeoCoV?

The virus was first discussed in 2013 and the first reference of it was made in a 2014 paper titled, "Rooting the phylogenetic tree of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus by characterisation of a conspecific virus from an African bat"

"NeoCoV shared essential details of genome architecture with MERS-CoV. Eighty-five percent of the NeoCoV genome was identical to MERS-CoV at the nucleotide level," the paper said.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), MERS-CoV belongs to the large family of coronaviruses that can cause a multitude of diseases including common cold and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

There have been no known cases of NeoCoV transmission in humans.


What Has the Study Found?

So far, NeoCoV used Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP4) receptors for binding.

The study conducted by Chinese scientists "unexpectedly" found that NeoCoV and its close relative, PDF-2180-CoV, could potentially use a human and bat Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor for entry, which means that it could possibly infect humans.

This possibility, as per the study, is dependent on recombinations or mutations.

Doctors and scientists have said on Twitter that the chances of that happening are extremely rare.

The Sputnik report also added a statement from the experts from the Vector Russian State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology who said that the potential risk to humans mentioned in the study needed further research.


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Topics:  Bats   MERS   Fact-Check 

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