After the UK, Africa's top public health official said on Thursday, December 24 that another new variant of the Coronavirus appeared to have emerged in the African country, Nigeria. John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, "It is a separate lineage from the UK and South Africa."
According to the health official, the Nigeria CDC and the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in that country will be examining more samples. He asked for some time and said that "it is still very early".
Another New Variant in Nigeria
Nkengasong said that the alert about the new variant was based on two or three genetic sequences. The research paper revealed that the variant was discovered in two patient samples which were collected on August 3 and October 9 in Nigeria's Osun State.
However, people should understand that there is a difference between strain and variant. The term strain is only appropriate when referring to SARS-CoV-2, while according to Professor Tom Connor of the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University, there is one strain of Coronavirus and that is SARS-CoV-2. "That is a single strain, and there are variants of that strain. These are variants," he added.
As reported by the Associated Press, researchers said that they had not noticed such a rapid rise of the lineage in Nigeria. As of now the researchers also do not have evidence to indicate that the variant—named P681H—is contributing to increased transmission of the novel Coronavirus in Nigeria. "However, the relative difference in scale of genomic surveillance in Nigeria vs the UK may imply a reduced power to detect such changes," the paper added.
Nkengasong said that the new variant found in the South African region is now the predominant one there. However, it is still not clear whether it leads to more severe COVID-19 or not. While talking about South Africa's variant, he also noted that "we believe this mutation will not have an effect" on the deployment of vaccines.
While the health minister of South Africa on Wednesday, December 23 announced an "alarming rate of spread" in that country, a tweet from an Iranian official revealed that the fast-spreading variant of novel Coronavirus might have leaked from a vaccine research facility in the UK.
The UK is struggling to control the spread of the virus in the country and has imposed stricter restrictions in some parts of Britain. Meanwhile, the African continent has reported over 2.5 million confirmed cases or 3.3 percent of global cases. According to reports, infections across Africa have risen 10.9 percent over the past few weeks, said Nkengasong.