Shared opinions on designation of novel corona virus

The novel corona virus, which currently poses major challenges for China, currently has several names. A research team for the coronavirus (Coronavirus Study Group) at the International Committee for Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) recently named it Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2 for short.

To justify the designation, a communication from the ICTV stated that the new pathogen was, so to speak, a sister strain parallel to the SARS virus from 2003. Both viruses came under the genus of the SARS-relevant corona viruses.

However, Chinese scientists currently have divided opinions about this term. Proponents believe that the designation is descriptive and corresponds to the usual classification practice, while other experts assume that this designation could easily be misunderstood. To some extent, it could lead to unnecessary fears.

Since its publication, the ICTV name has also been evaluated differently in international circles. Mebratu Bitew, a biologist at the University of Melbourne, wrote on Twitter that he preferred the previous label 2019-nCoV because it indicated a new type of corona virus that was discovered in 2019.

Proponents of SARS-CoV-2 say the virus for the SARS epidemic will be called SARS-CoV in 2013. Since the novel corona virus, like the SARS pathogen, also comes from bats, uses the same intermediate host for the transmission and shares almost 80 percent of its genetic material with the SARS virus, it goes without saying for scientists that the name of the SARS virus is a numeric word add to clarify the relationship between the two viruses.

Nevertheless, other scientists believe that simply adding a “2” after the name of the SARS virus could lead the public to view the novel virus as a direct descendant and not as a close relative of the pathogen that started in the 21st century China triggered the outbreak of a widespread infectious disease.

According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, SARS disease has more severe visible symptoms and a higher mortality rate of around 9.6 percent, while the death rate of the lung disease caused by the novel coronavirus is two to four percent.

Chinese neuroscientist Rao Yi said that the SARS virus has remained a sensitive nerve to the Chinese public since its outbreak 17 years ago, so scientists should be extremely careful when comparing the two corona viruses.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially named the lung disease caused by the novel coronavirus COVID-19.


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