The WHO named the disease caused by the virus Covid-19, meaning coronavirus disease discovered in 2019. Credit:

Referencing the old political adage, you can’t make everyone happy, not everyone is pleased with the recent renaming of novel coronavirus.

Chinese scientists are divided on the official scientific name, with supporters saying the name is descriptive and follows typical classification practices and others claiming it could easily be misunderstood and abused to cause unnecessary fears, China Daily reported.

The name for the virus is called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2. It was released on Tuesday in the non-peer reviewed journal database BioRxiv by the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Virus, the report said.

The ICTV group said the new pathogen is a sister strain parallel to the SARS virus from 2003, and both viruses fall under the species of SARS-related coronavirus.

The rationale behind the classification is to “highlight the need to study the entire virus species to complement research focused on individual pathogenic viruses of immediate significance.”

Also on Tuesday, the WHO named the disease caused by the virus COVID-19, meaning coronavirus disease discovered in 2019. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the name is neutral, pronounceable and related to the disease.

“Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing,” he said. “It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks.”

The new name has received a mixed reception since it was published.

Mebratu A. Bitew, a biology PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, said on his Twitter account that he favored the new name over the previous 2019-nCoV title, which implies a novel coronavirus discovered in 2019, the report said.

He said the word “novel” was a “confusing jargon” because neither the disease nor the host range can be used to reliably determine a virus’s novelty, since a few mutations can turn a virus deadly or switch to another host, the report said.

The new title has also followed traditional naming conventions, such as those used in naming Dengue fever.

According to the ICTV, the mosquito-borne tropical virus has four serotypes with similar hosts, symptoms and transmission methods, and thus its variants are named DENV-1, DENV-2, DENV-3 and DENV-4, the report said.

Other names for the virus have been discussed recently in the Chinese scientific community, including TARS-CoV, HARS-CoV, CARSCoV and PARS-CoV. The “ARS “represent acute respiratory syndrome, with T standing for transmissible, H for human, C for contagious and P for pneumonia.

Leave a comment