New Coronavirus Appears Deadlier Than Sars
The mysterious new coronavirus that emerged in the Middle East and has killed 11 people is potentially more deadly than Sars and also more “promiscuous” - able to infect many different species - University of Hong Kong research has found.
Unlike Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome), the new coronavirus can affect many different organs in the body and kills cells rapidly, the researchers say.
The source of the new infection is still unknown, but the virus appears to have originated in bats, a team of European experts wrote in the journal mBio.
The HKU research listed animals including monkeys, pigs, civet cats and even rabbits that could be hosts of the virus before it found its way to humans. Lead researcher Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist, said this meant the source of human infection would be difficult to trace.
The World Health Organisation announced yesterday that the disease had killed two more people - a 73-year-old from the United Arab Emirates and a Briton who had visited Saudi Arabia and Pakistan - bringing the death toll to 11. The WHO has confirmed 17 cases to date.
Yuen told the South China Morning Post that the virus could cause a deadly pandemic if it mutated further. “It could be more virulent [than Sars]”, he said. “The Sars coronavirus infects very few human cell lines. But this new virus can infect many types of human cell lines, and kill cells rapidly.”