A new strain of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that grounded the global economy for all of 2020, has been identified in Nigeria.
The mutant variant was first identified in the United Kingdom (UK) and has caused several countries to ban flights from the UK.
It has also led the UK government to announce a slew of fresh restrictions and lockdowns.
Newsmen report that this new strain has been identified in Nigeria by scientists at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), at the Redeemers University in Ede, Osun State.
In a publication in Virological, a website for the global Genomics community, the scientists say they found the same variant “lineage B.1.1.7” in Osun State, Southwest Nigeria since August 3, 2020, when the first sample was collected.
The UK first detected this new variant in September.
Another sample from Osun State, that was collected in October, correspondingly showed the presence of this new variant.
According to Christian Happi, Professor of molecular biology and genomics, who is also the Director at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), “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.”
Happi however told the online newspaper that he cannot link the spike in COVID-19 infections in Nigeria in recent times, to this new strain.
“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.
Happi also said new samples are still being sequenced.
Scientists in the UK and US say there is no evidence at the moment that this new strain is more lethal and more transmissible than the China strain.
There is however ample evidence that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that have begun going into arms in the west, are capable of destroying this new strain.
Nigeria recently announced new travel restrictions and a ban on large gatherings in a bid to combat a second wave of COVID-19.
Nigeria has reported 78, 790 COVID-19 infections, 68, 483 recoveries and 1, 227 deaths as of December 21, 2020, according to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC).