The United Kingdom has reported new cases of a variant of the coronavirus, said to have emerged from Nigeria.
Described as the B1525, a report by researchers at the University of Edinburg, traces the earliest discovery of the variant to December 29, 2020.
At least 29 sequences of the B1525 reported in the UK have been traced to Nigeria, with scientists insisting that there is a need for more research to understand its peculiarities.
According to The Guardian, “the variant has similarities in its genome to the Kent variant, B117, and it contains a number of mutations that have worried researchers, including the E484K mutation to the spike protein – a protein found on the outside of the virus that plays an important role in helping the virus to enter cells.”
Simon Clarke, an associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, also explained that the new mutation may affect the efficacy of vaccines, but the degree of transmission and severity of symptoms have not yet been clearly determined.
“We don’t yet know how well this [new] variant will spread, but if it is successful it can be presumed that immunity from any vaccine or previous infection will be blunted,” Clarke was quoted to have said.
“I think that until we know more about these variants, any variants which carry E484K should be subject to surge testing as it seems to confer resistance to immunity, however that is generated.”
The development comes six weeks after John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), had said a new variant of COVID-19 had been reported in Nigeria.
In its report on the variant referred to by Nkengasong, a paper titled ‘Detection of SARS-CoV-2 P681H Spike Protein Variant in Nigeria’, published in the ‘Virological’ journal, with the collaboration of the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID); Redeemer’s University, Osun State; the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and the Africa CDC, draws slight similarities between the variant found in Nigeria and that of the UK’s B.1.1.7, but puts it at less than two percent.
“At the moment, only about 1% of the SARS-CoV-2 genomes from Nigeria share any of the 17 protein-altering variants from the UK lineage of concern (B.1.1.7). However, this might change in the next few weeks when we sequence more samples from the recently reported surge of covid-19 in Nigeria,” a summary of the report, reads.