Coronaviruses, the family of viruses to which SARS belongs, are a group of viruses that have a crown-like (corona) appearance when viewed under an electron microscope.
Credit: CDC/ Dr. Fred Murphy
A new virus that surfaced in Saudi Arabia last year, and has so far killed 20 people and infecting 20 more, finally has an official name: Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), according to news reports.
The Coronavirus Study Group, an international team of scientists, announced its decision to name the virus in a paper published in the Journal of Virology on Thursday (May 15).
The MERS coronavirus causes severe pneumonia with symptoms similar to another coronavirus, SARS, which emerged in China in 2002 and infected 8,000 people worldwide. Gene sequencing showed that the newly discovered virus was genetically different than SARS.
Other possible names for the new virus that the scientists considered were Novel coronavirus 2012, or London1_novel CoV 2012, or Saudi SARS.
To avoid confusion in communication, the Coronavirus Study Group recommended that the virus be called MERS-CoV.
“This name is endorsed by the discoverers of the virus and other researchers that pioneered MERS-CoV studies, by the World Health Organization and by the Saudi Ministry of Health,” the group wrote.