A new coronavirus has appeared to have killed a man from Saudi Arabia and sickened a Qatari man who had traveled to Saudi Arabia, reports the BBC. The Qatari man was flown to London for treatment, and NPR's Shots blog adds that scientists from the UK Health Protection Agency have examined the virus' gene sequence and say that this virus is not SARS. Rather, the scientists say that it appears to be related to a group of bat viruses. "It is genetically very different than SARS," says Ralph Baric from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The London scientists have dubbed the virus London1_novel CoV 2012.
Baric adds that sequencing advances are helping in faster and more accurate characterization of viruses, even rapidly mutating ones. "There's tremendous expertise and capabilities for identifying and tracking new viruses" he tells the Shots blog. "This is a huge public health advantage and it's been put in place [since the SARS epidemic] to protect the global health."
Peter Openshaw, who directs the Centre for Respiratory Infection at Imperial College London, tells Reuters that the virus likely was only identified because of improved testing and that he is not currently worried about the virus. "For now, I would be watchful but not immediately concerned," he says.