LONDON - A new virus that emerged in the Middle East last year and has killed five people is well adapted to infecting humans but could potentially be treated with drugs that boost the immune system, scientists said on Tuesday.
The virus, called novel coronavirus or NCoV, is from the same family as the common cold and as SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. There have been 12 confirmed cases worldwide - including in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Britain - and five patients have died.
In one of the first published studies about NCoV, which was unknown in humans until it was identified in September 2012, researchers said it could penetrate the lining of passageways in the lungs and evade the immune system as easily as a cold virus can.
This shows it "grows very efficiently" in human cells and suggests it is well-equipped for infecting humans, said Volker Thiel of the Institute of Immunobiology at Kantonal Hospital in Switzerland, who led the study.