On February 9, Chen Huanchun, academician of the Chinese Academy of engineering and professor at Huazhong Agricultural University, said that the new coronavirus uses the same cell entry receptor as the SARS coronavirus, with 87.1% similarity to the SARS-related virus found in bats and a 79.5% similarity with the original SARS virus. In fact, the virus was found to be 96% similar to the coronavirus sample found in a bat from Yunnan Province, proving that the new coronavirus and the SARS coronavirus are likely related.
However, on the same day, Xu Wenbo, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “We do not think that the new coronavirus and SARS virus are the same virus.”
Following the remark, Chen Huanchun told Xinhua news agency that the new coronavirus was not same a the SARS coronavirus, and that there was a mistake in his previous statement.
To find out the real relationship between SARS and the novel coronavirus from Wuhan, Chinese media Science and Technology Daily interviewed virologist Robert Naviaux, professor at the University of California, San Diego School of medicine. Professor Naviaux uses general analysis software phyloT to calculate the gene relationship between different viruses.
Professor Naviaux explained that the new coronavirus and the SARS virus belong to the same species, called SARS-like Species or SARS-related Species. However, they do not belong to the same “cluster”. The 2019 new coronavirus belongs to the bat SARS-like cluster, while the SARS virus belongs to the SARS cluster.