Another New COVID Strain Found In Nigeria, Says Africa CDC
The discovery could add to new alarm in the pandemic after similar variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that appear to be more contagious were announced in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
This has led to the swift return of international travel restrictions and other measures just as the world enters a holiday season.
John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed the existence of the new P681H strain on Thursday – saying it is different to the ones found recently in the UK and South Africa.
Nkengasong said Nigeria CDC and African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) in the country will be analysing more samples, stressing; “Give us some time … it’s still very early”.
The mutant strain of coronavirus emerged as Nigeria reports a surge in the cases of coronavirus, though the new variant is not thought to be behind that surge.
Coronavirus variants emerge routinely as the virus spreads. About 4,000 variants of the deadly virus has been recorded till date, but those in UK and South Africa were widely reported because scientists believe they are significantly more infectious than previous strains.
Medics do not currently believe the new strain is more infectious than previous strains, but Dr Nkengasong added that scientists needed ‘more time‘ to study it.
Meanwhile, the new variants can affect the ability of coronavirus vaccines to fight the virus, though this is not thought to be the case with the UK or South African variant.
The Nigerian variant’s potential effect on vaccines is so-far unclear. It was found in two patient samples collected on August 3 and October 9 in southern Osun state, a preliminary report into the virus said.
Unlike the variant seen in the UK, the report added;
We haven’t observed such rapid rise of the lineage in Nigeria and do not have evidence to indicate that the P681H variant is contributing to increased transmission of the virus in Nigeria.
An emergency meeting of Africa CDC will take place this week to discuss the new strains, including the one in South Africa that has seen cases soar.
Dr Nkengasong said Nigeria CDC and ACEGID will analyse more samples, adding;
However, the relative difference in scale of genomic surveillance in Nigeria vs the U.K. may imply a reduced power to detect such changes.