Novel coronavirus

Novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a provisional name given to coronaviruses of medical significance before a permanent name is decided upon. Although coronaviruses are endemic in humans and infections normally mild, such as the common cold (caused by human coronaviruses in ~15% of cases), cross-species transmission has produced some unusually virulent strains which can cause viral pneumonia and in serious cases even acute respiratory distress syndrome and death.[1][2][3][4]


The following viruses could initially be referred to as "novel coronavirus", before being formally named:

Human pathogenic novel coronaviridae species
Official nameOther namesOriginal host[a]Place (date) of discoveryDisease caused
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)[b][4][5]2019-nCoV; SARS virus 2; Human coronavirus 2019 (HCoV-19)pangolins, batsWuhan, China (2019)coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)[c][4][6]
Middle East respiratory syndrome–related coronavirus (MERS-CoV)[d]Middle East virus; MERS virus; camel flu viruscamels, batsJeddah, Saudi Arabia (2012)Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)
Human coronavirus HKU1 (HCoV-HKU1)New Haven virusmiceHong Kong (2005)unnamed, extremely rare, usually mild variant of coronavirus respiratory syndrome
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 1 (SARS-CoV-1)[b]SARS viruscivets, batsFoshan, China (2002)severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
  1. ^ Host jump capability may not persist
  2. ^ a b This virus is not a distinct species, but rather a strain of the species SARSr-CoV
  3. ^ Synonyms include 2019 coronavirus pneumonia and Wuhan respiratory syndrome
  4. ^ Strains include MERS coronavirus EMC/2012 and London1 novel CoV/2012

All four viruses are part of the Betacoronavirus genus within the coronavirus family.


The word "novel" indicates a "new pathogen of a previously known type" (i.e. known family) of virus. Use of the word conforms to best practices for naming new infectious diseases published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015. Historically, pathogens have sometimes been named after locations, individuals, or specific species.[7] However, this practice is now explicitly discouraged by the WHO.[8] A study published in 2020 suggested that referring to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as the "Chinese virus" was stigmatizing and could hinder public health efforts.[9]

The official permanent names for viruses and for diseases are determined by the ICTV and the WHO's ICD, respectively.

See also


  1. ^ Murray and Nadel (2010). Chapter 31.
  2. ^ Cunha (2010). pp. 6–18.
  3. ^ Melmed (2011). p. 636
  4. ^ a b c "The 2019–2020 Novel Coronavirus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2) Pandemic: A Joint American College of Academic International Medicine‑World Academic Council of Emergency Medicine Multidisciplinary COVID‑19 Working Group Consensus Paper". ResearchGate. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  5. ^ "Coronavirus disease named Covid-19". BBC News..
  6. ^ According to ICD-10 the disease is referred to as "2019-new coronavirus acute respiratory disease [temporary name]". It is not listed in ICD-11.
  7. ^ Ghosh R, Das S. A Brief Review of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-Ncov) Outbreak. Global Journal for Research Analysis. 2020; 9 (2).
  8. ^ World Health Organization Best Practices for the Naming of New Human Infectious Diseases. World Health Organization. May 2015.
  9. ^ Budhwani, Henna; Sun, Ruoyan (2020). "Creating COVID-19 Stigma by Referencing the Novel Coronavirus as the "Chinese virus" on Twitter: Quantitative Analysis of Social Media Data". Journal of Medical Internet Research. 22 (5): e19301. doi:10.2196/19301. PMC 7205030. PMID 32343669.

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