Africa’s top public health official said on Thursday that a new strain of coronavirus was found in Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country.
As The Associated Press reports, John Nkengasong, head of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told reporters that the new strain was identified based on two or three genetic sequences, leading to an emergency meeting of officers this week.
“It is a separate strain from the United Kingdom and South Africa,” said Nkengasong. “Give us some time … it’s still too early.”
According to a research article obtained by the AP, the new strain was found in samples from two patients collected in August and October in Osun state, Nigeria. The news service noted that the variant COVID-19 is different from the one found in the UK
“We have not seen such a rapid increase in strain in Nigeria and we have no evidence to indicate that the P681H variant is contributing to increased transmission of the virus in Nigeria,” said the research article. “However, the relative difference in the scale of genomic surveillance in Nigeria compared to the UK may imply reduced power to detect these changes.”
Nkengasong said it remains to be seen whether the new coronavirus strain leads to more severe symptoms, although he noted that transmission is faster and has a higher viral load.
The strain found in South Africa and the United Kingdom has caused several countries around the world to limit travel. Some lawmakers have expressed support for similar action to be taken in the United States, with the White House allegedly considering requiring a negative COVID-19 test from UK travelers.
Africa saw a new outbreak of cases, notes the AP, with Nkengasong saying that Nigeria had a 52% increase last month, while cases in South Africa have increased by 40%.
According to the World Health Organization, Nigeria has confirmed almost 80,000 cases and just over 1,200 coronavirus-related deaths.