The Federal Government says it is investigating claims by scientists at the Redeemer’s University, Ede, Osun State, that the new COVID-19 mutant variant recently discovered in the United Kingdom has been existing in Nigeria.
This was revealed by the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, in Abuja on Wednesday.
He said the PTF has been in touch with the scientists to get further clarifications on the discovery.
The PTF coordinator explained that a professor of Molecular Biology & Genomics Professor, Christian Happi, and Professor Ify Aniebo, both of the African Centre of Excellence for the Genomics of Infectious Diseases at Redeemer’s University, reported that samples collected from Osun State in August and October, showed the presence of the new variant, lineage B.1.1.7.
He said, “We have reached out to Professor Happi to seek additional clarifications with regards to this, and we are also talking to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC.
“What is really vital at this stage is to immediately do sequencing.
“I know the sequencing that Professor Happi’s group has done in the past involved about 250 samples, so that’s really low.
“What we need to do and most of the things he did, were in August or September.
“So, we are much further down the line now and what we need to do is make sure that we sequence as many outlets as we have now.”
Aliyu said it was not unusual that coronavirus strains replicate very quickly, noting that the new strain has also been discovered in other countries.
“Just to allay public anxiety, the strain that has been described in the UK, is also now in South Africa, Australia and in some other countries.
“What it has shown now is that it is more transmissible based on group studies.
“But there’s no human epidemiological link that suggests that it is more deadly at the moment and certainly, with coronaviruses, they always tend to change.
“That is why if you catch a common cold for instance and you get better, the next day if you see someone with a cold, you are just as likely to go down with it.
“They are strains that continue to replicate very quickly.
“So it is no surprise that we have a new strain that is being described at the moment.
Aliyu said it is rather too early to draw any conclusion on the new strain, adding, ‘It is still early days yet in terms of the science and even within the UK, there’s still a lot of debate as to how different it is from previous strains.
“We are not trying to say we should ignore the problem.
“We had a very long discussion yesterday at the PTF, a debate that lasted well over an hour with different aspects being looked at and we will continue to monitor this very closely.
“We have already asked Professor Happi to provide us with additional clarification because they have been working for the NCDC as well.”