Mutated COVID-19 found in the UK, allegedly already in Nigeria” — Experts

Scientists at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), at the Redeemers University in Ede, Osun State have said the new variant of the coronavirus currently causing panic and concern in the United Kingdom and European Union has been identified in Nigeria.

In a publication shared on Virological, a website for the global Genomics community, scientists at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases at Ede revealed that they found the same variant “lineage B.1.1.7” existing in Osun State since August 3rd 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 the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), said,

“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 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,” he said.

Speaking further, Happi said,

“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 as much as the full effect of this mutation isn’t known yet and it is still being studied, the importance of a robust genomic surveillance system cannot be overemphasized as we can identify and report changes in the genomes of pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2 that are of public health interest”