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 Centres 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 to 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.
That strain has emerged as Nigeria since 1 December 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 Wednesday, taking the death toll to 1,236
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.
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,’ the paper says.
Dr Nkengasong said the Nigeria CDC and the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases will analyse more samples.
With reports by Daily Mail