Novel coronavirus

A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is any recently discovered coronavirus of medical significance not yet permanently named. Although coronaviruses are endemic in humans and infections are normally mild (such as the common cold, which is caused by human coronaviruses in about 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.[1][2][3]


The following viruses could initially be referred to as "novel coronavirus", often with retroactive addition of the year of discovery, before being given a permanent designation:

Human pathogenic novel coronaviridae species
Initial name Officially named Informal names Original host[a] Place of discovery Disease caused
2019-nCoV Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)[b][4][5] SARS virus 2 bats Wuhan, China coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)[c][6]
2012-nCoV Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV)[d] Middle East virus, MERS virus, camel flu virus camels, bats Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)
2005-nCoV Human coronavirus HKU1 (HCoV-HKU1) New Haven virus mice Hong Kong, China unnamed, extremely rare, usually mild variant of coronavirus respiratory syndrome
2002-nCoV Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV)[b] SARS virus civets, bats Foshan, China 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 novel coronavirus pneumonia, anilingosa sinensium tedrosi and Wuhan respiratory syndrome
  4. ^ Strains include HCoV-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]

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, pp. 636 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFMelmed2011 (help)
  4. ^ Gorbalenya, Alexander E. (11 February 2020). "Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus – The species and its viruses, a statement of the Coronavirus Study Group". bioRxiv: 2020.02.07.937862. doi:10.1101/2020.02.07.937862.
  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.