UK’s New COVID-19 Variant Found In Nigeria, Scientists Say
Scientists at Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), at Redeemers University in Ede, Osun State say the new strain of coronavirus causing panic in the United Kingdom has been identified in Nigeria.
The new variant, detected in UK since September and dubbed “lineage B.1.1.7” has triggered the current rapid spike in COVID-19 cases, leading to a travel ban on the country by some European countries and a stay-at-home tier-4 level restriction in the affected paths of the country.
In a publication shared on Virological – a website for the global Genomics community – scientists at ACEGID said they found the same variant named “lineage B.1.1.7” existing in Osun State since August 3 when the first sample was collected.
The publication also stated that another sample, also from Osun State, collected in October, correspondingly showed the presence of this new variant.
In an interview with Premiumtimes, Professor Christian Happi, who is the Director at ACEGID, expressed;
The B.1.1.7 lineage we found in Nigeria, predating the one described in the UK, has also been observed to rise rapidly in the UK over the past four weeks, indicating the plausible increased spread of the virus by specific non-synonymous mutations in the spike protein.
He however refused to attribute the new variance found in Nigeria to the spike in the number of confirmed COVID19 cases in the country in recent times.
We however haven’t observed such rapid rise of the lineage in Nigeria and do not have sufficient evidence to indicate that the B.1.1.7 lineage is contributing to increased transmission of the virus in Nigeria.
The scientist however warned that although the new variant might not be responsible for the rise in cases, that could change when new samples are sequenced.
At the moment, only about 1% of the genomes from Nigeria belong to the new SARS-CoV-2 variant (B.1.1.7 lineage) and one of them predates the first description in the UK. However, this might change in the next few weeks when we sequence more samples from the recently reported surge of covid-19 in Nigeria.
Other reported mutations such as the N501Y, A570D, and the HV 69 – 70 deletion in the spike protein have not been detected in our genomes yet, this could also be associated with the non-increase of the lineage in Nigeria currently.
In reaction to spike in coronavirus cases and the new strain, federal authorities on Monday ordered the closure of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants across the country.
The number of guests at weddings, conferences, among others have also been limited to 50 persons, according to chairman of the presidential task force, Boss Mustapha.
Meanwhile, BBC reports that top health officials said that there was no evidence the new variant was more deadly or would react differently to vaccines, but it was proving to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible.