A new coronavirus that emerged in the Middle East last fall could be deadlier than the SARS virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed 774 people between 2002 and 2003, researchers from the University of Hong Kong said.
Unlike SARS, the new virus, which has killed 11 people since September 2012, has the ability to damage many different organs in the body, the researchers explained in a study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases this week.
“It could be more virulent [than SARS],” lead researcher Yuen Kwok-yung told the South China Morning Post. “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.”
They’re called coronaviruses because of the crown-like spikes on their surface.
Patients with the new virus experience multiple organ failure, which could explain its 65 percent mortality rate so far, the South China Morning Post reported. In contrast, 11 percent of the people who got SARS died.
The first victims to die from the new virus were a Qatari man in a British hospital and a woman in Saudi Arabia, ABC News reported. The latest victims were located in Germany and the United Kingdom.
A total of 17 people infected with the virus have been identified.
There is one glimmer of hope in battling the new virus: “It is not easily spread between people (unlike SARS),” World Health Organization spokesman Glenn Thomas told ABC News.