Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Viruses mutate naturally, particularly RNA viruses like the novel coronavirus. Many variants of the new coronavirus have surfaced since COVID-19 began spreading around the world. Recently, a new strain of COVID-19 was found in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.
John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDCP), told reporters that the new strain was identified based on two or three genetic sequences.
“It’s a separate lineage from the U.K. and South Africa,” Nkengasong said. “Give us some time. It’s still very early.”
Last week, scientists at the ACEGID in southeastern Nigeria discovered the new strain. Samples collected from two patients in August and October in Nigeria’s Osun state showed presence of the P681H variant. The Hill noted that the variant differed from one found in the United Kingdom.
The tally of coronavirus cases in Nigeria has been rising by several hundred a day since the start of December. Specifically, there has been a major increase in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital, prompting authorities to reinstate a curfew and limit gatherings of more than 50 people.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nigeria has confirmed about 80,000 cases and over 1,200 deaths related to the coronavirus, since the beginning of March 2020.
“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. However, the relative difference in scale of genomic surveillance in Nigeria vs. the U.K. may imply a reduced power to detect such changes,” Nkengasong told The Hill.
It is still not known whether the new coronavirus strain has more severe symptoms, though it seems to transmit more quickly and has a higher viral load.
As they looked at the Nigerian variant, researchers found it had 23 mutations, 17 of which could affect the virus’s behavior. Research on the spike protein suggests that the mutations in this variant may help the virus to enter cells more effectively than earlier versions.
Scientists are not sure about how an influx of mutations would affect the virus’s infectivity orrender current vaccines ineffective.
Through Teen Lenses: Have you heard about the new strains of COVID-19 around the world? What do you know about them?
“I heard about the new strain of COVID in the U.K. because it’s been all over the news lately. I think it’s really scary that they’re finding new mutations because people aren’t taking precautions when they go out in public and they seem sick of all of the restrictions in general so the situation doesn’t look like it’ll get better for a while..” Simrith Ranjan, 15, Sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, South Riding, Virginia
“I actually did hear about multiple different strains, but this has been on the news for a few months now. It’s really concerning because people say that they’re scared of the virus becoming more powerful, but they still fail to stay safe and continue meeting people.” Thrisha Sakamuri, 15, Sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, South Riding, Virginia
“Yes, I have heard of the new strains of COVID-19. I know that they started administering the vaccine already, but one thing that I’ve been thinking about is that the new mutations in the virus wouldn’t allow for the vaccine to cover each strain. If the virus continues to mutate, how will the single vaccine help protect people. It seems like it’ll be an ongoing issue.” Ridhi Pendyala, 15, Sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Centreville, Virginia