Why fears of ‘deadly’ NeoCoV may be greatly exaggerated

The nuance of the study and its main claim have been omitted from the headlines of news reports, some of which have gone so far as to proclaim “1 in 3 people can die” in what can only be seen as the bait combination clickable and ignorant.

Hindustan time

January 30, 2022, 11:00 a.m.

Last modification: January 30, 2022, 11:07 a.m.

A medical worker takes a swab sample for Covid-19 testing in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, India. Photo: Xinhua vai UNB

“>

A medical worker takes a swab sample for Covid-19 testing in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, India. Photo: Xinhua vai UNB

Several reports went viral on Thursday and Friday claiming that Chinese researchers had found a coronavirus called NeoCoV that was poised to cause a new high-mortality pandemic, turning what were typical assumptions of lab-based scientific studies into sensationalized doomsday predictions. .

Reports have started snowballing following an initial article by Russian news agency Sputnik, which reported on a pre-print, or yet to be peer-reviewed, study. .

He was talking about two coronaviruses, NeoCoV and PDF-2180-CoV, which Chinese researchers said resembled the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) coronavirus.

Their laboratory studies showed that if NeoCoV picks up a certain mutation, it could use the same pathway to infect humans as the Sars-CoV-2 virus.

The objective of the study is based on a simple premise: if NeoCoV picks up a particular mutation, can it become a greater threat?

It is important to understand the nature of these studies. Virologists around the world are exploring several theories and testing them using certain hypotheses, modified pathogens, and modified cells engineered to represent a certain attribute or the other.

While these may identify information on where to look for threats, it’s important to remember that these are assumptions. And the fact that this article has not yet been peer-reviewed makes it even more tentative since the assumptions, methods, and conclusions can only be tested for robustness by other scientists.

There are also other factors to consider. NeoCoV is not a new coronavirus and it belongs, along with Mers, to a distinctly different genus (a subclassification type) of coronavirus known as merbecovirus.

This is distinct from sarbecovirus, the type that Sars-CoV-2 and Sars-CoV are, and embecovirus, the type to which the other cold coronaviruses HKU1 and OC43 belong. Recombination between these is not impossible, but they have been rarely observed.

But one of the most important factors to remember is that Chinese scientists themselves find that NeoCoV does not infect human ACE2 at present, which means it cannot infect humans yet. .

Rather, they emphasize the “latent potential” of these viruses in the future and the importance of surveillance and research on these viruses.

The nuance of the study and its main claim have been omitted from the headlines of news reports, some of which have gone so far as to proclaim “1 in 3 people can die” in what can only be seen as the combination of the click bait and ignorance.

For many, this was perhaps the only headline to conclude that a new pandemic was on the horizon.

A landmark study by researchers at Columbia University showed in 2016 that 59% of people who shared a story on social media never read it. Several studies have since corroborated this.

Comments are closed.