Scientists working at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) at Redeemers University in Ede, Osun State have said that the new variant of the coronavirus that has created panic and concern in the United Kingdom has been found in Nigeria.
In a publication posted on Virological, a website for the global Genomics community, the scientists revealed that they discovered that the same variant “lineage B.1.1.7” was existing in Osun State since August 3 when the first sample was collected. Also, the publication stated that another sample that was also collected in Osun State in October revealed further the existence of this new variant.
During an interview with Premiumtimes, the Director at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), Professor Christian Happi 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 however did not attribute the new variance discovered in Nigeria to the recent increase in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country.
He said: “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..
“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.”