How the coronavirus got its name. No, it's got nothing to do with beer

30 January 2020 - 14:54 By Sanet Oberholzer
The different strains of the coronavirus family cause different symptoms.
The different strains of the coronavirus family cause different symptoms.
Image: 123RF/lightwise

Google has reported that searches for the Mexican beer Corona along with the phrase “corona beer virus” have surged since the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus which originated in China. But while they sound somewhat similar, the brew and the flu-like virus have nothing to do with each other.

The latest coronavirus, nCoV-2019, is part of the coronavirus family which includes the common cold as well as more severe viruses such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), two viruses that broke out in 2002 and 2012 respectively.

WATCH | Here's what the coronavirus looks like under the microscope

The different strains of the coronavirus family cause different symptoms, but the family of viruses has been so named because, when viewed under a microscope, coronaviruses appear to look crown-like because of the spikes protruding from their surfaces. These spikes are needed for the virus to bind onto a host cell and infect it.

Their name actually derives from Latin in which “corona” means crown. Carried over into English, the word “corona” is anatomical in nature and is used to refer to body parts that resemble a crown.