NAIROBI, Dec 24 (Reuters) – Another new variant of the novel coronavirus seems to have emerged in Nigeria, the head of Africa’s disease control body said on Thursday, cautioning more investigation was needed.
The news comes after Britain and South Africa both reported new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that appear to be more contagious, leading to new travel restrictions and turmoil in markets.
“It’s a separate lineage from the UK and the South African lineages,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told an online news conference from Addis Ababa.
“The one we are seeing in Nigeria, and this is based on very limited data yet, has the 501 mutation,” Nkengasong added, referring to the variant termed 501.V2 identified in South Africa and announced by public health officials there on Dec. 18.
The Nigeria CDC and the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in Nigeria will study more samples, Nkengasong said.
The country’s principal COVID-19 investigator has just released publicly the genomic sequences of the new variant, he added.
Nigeria’s CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Nkengasong’s remarks.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with more than 200 million people, has seen fewer coronavirus cases than many others on the continent.
Total cases crept past 80,000 on Wednesday. Daily recorded cases exceeded 1,000 for the first time this month. (Reporting by Nairobi newsroom Additional reporting by Paul Carsten in Abuja Writing by Maggie Fick Editing by Mark Potter)
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