By Aina Ojonugwa
A new variant of the novel Coronavirus has been found in Nigeria, Africa’s leading virus specialist, John Nkengasong said.
Nkengasong, Head of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed the existence of the new P681H strain on Thursday.
The Nigerian variant was found in two patient samples collected on August 3 and October 9 in Osun state.
Nkengasong said it is different from the ones found recently in the UK and South Africa. But he added that it is too early to tell what effects the new variant might possess, saying that scientists needed ‘more time’ to study it.
Recently, Nigeria has been reporting daily high numbers of COVID-19 cases. On 18 December, the cases reached an unprecedented 1145 daily count.
On Wednesday, another 1,133 cases were reported from 17 states and Abuja.
Nigeria also recorded five deaths from the virus on Wednesday, taking the death toll to 1,236 with 80, 932 total infections out of which 69, 274 have been treated and discharged.
Coronavirus variants emerge routinely as the virus spreads with some 4,000 logged to date.
Those in the UK and South Africa have been widely reported because scientists believe they are significantly more infectious than previous strains.
New variants could also affect the ability of vaccines to fight the virus, though this is not thought to be the case with the UK or South African variant.
In the United States, President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday urged Americans to remain “vigilant”, adding that Pfizer’s and Moderna’s coronavirus vaccines likely won’t stop the deaths of “tens of thousands” people due to the pandemic in the months to come.
The United States is currently averaging close to 3,000 Covid-19 deaths per day, Biden said during his remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday afternoon.
The Nigerian variant’s potential effect on vaccines is so far unclear. ‘Give us some time,’ Dr Nkengasong urged. ‘It’s still very early.’
An emergency meeting of the Africa CDC will now take place this week to discuss the new strains, including the one in South Africa that has seen cases soar.
Unlike the variant seen in the UK, “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”, a working paper said.
“However, the relative difference in scale of genomic surveillance in Nigeria vs the U.K. may imply a reduced power to detect such changes”, it added.
Dr Nkengasong said the Nigeria CDC and the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases will analyse more samples.
Source: The willNigeria