Renowned scientists have said that, as the new coronavirus spreads, there is a higher chance of Nigeria having another strain of the viral infection.
A professor of virology and former Vice-Chancellor at the Redeemer’s University, Nigeria, Ede, Osun State, Oyewale Tomori, told PUNCH HealthWise that the more there is community spread of the infection, the higher the chance of virus mutation to form a new strain that is peculiar to Nigeria.
Prof. Tomori said, “The more the community spread, the higher the chance of virus mutation.”
Confirming that there are three strains of COVID-19 in Nigeria, Tomori said the strains, which are classified into A, B.1 and B2-1, represent importations from different parts of the world.
According to the virologist, studies principally conducted at the African Centre of Excellence for the Genomics of Infectious Disease at RUN, together with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control revealed that the first SARS-CoV-2 causing the COVID-19 disease isolated from the European traveller who introduced the disease to Nigeria is genetically related to the European virus, consistent with the known travel history of this case.
“Further studies from the same ACEGID at the Redeemer’s University, showed that genetic analyses of twenty additional SARS-CoV-2 isolated in Nigeria belong to three different lineages -A, B.1 and B.2-1.
“The A-line includes viruses originating from China and exported to other regions of the world – South East Asia, Japan, South Korea, Australia, the USA.
“The B.1 lineage corresponds to the Italian outbreak, while the B.2-1 line represents viruses from the UK, Europe, Jordan, Australia, USA, India, Ghana.
“These studies conclude that there have been various introductions of multiple lineages of COVID-19 virus into Nigeria.”
Tomori said that the Ede team found that four of Nigerian cases were patients infected with a mutant virus.
“Three of these patients presented with very severe disease. This mutation helps the virus to dominate the wild type and to evade immune interventions.”
Also, a professor of molecular biology and genomics and Director at ACEGID, Christian Happi said, “There are three strains of COVID-19 so far in Nigeria.
“There is a possibility that the strains can form a new strain that is peculiar to Nigeria.”
On the implication of having different strains, Happi said: “the implication is that the virus might become more diverse and it might have an implication in terms of diagnostics and therapeutic vaccines.”
Tomori, however, said it is difficult to say if the strains of the virus will affect the severity of COVID-19 cases or increase the number of deaths “as this is an unfolding scenario. As the disease spreads we are likely to see possible mutation of yet unknown lineal expressions.”
He said that with different strains of COVID-19, “there will be different clinical manifestations depending on the infecting virus strain.”
He added that “these findings further emphasise the power of genomics in elucidating community transmission during pandemics, and the need for us to work together to get a better understanding and control of the COVID-19 disease.”