The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said on Monday a completely new variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Nigeria and 15 other countries.
The Director-General of NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who disclosed this at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 media briefing in Abuja, said the new strain, B.1.2.5, is different from the highly infectious B.1.1.7 first detected in the United Kingdom.
He, however, said the B.1.2.5 has not been described as a variant of concern yet.
According to him, researchers and scientists are still working hard to understand if the variant had any effect on the virus’ transmissibility and immunity as well as diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics.
Ihekweazu said: “As we shared, a total of 54 cases with the B.1.1.7 variant strain, which is a variant of concern first described in the United Kingdom, have been detected in Nigeria.
“There is a new COVID-19 variant, the B.1.2.5, which we have begun to detect in Nigeria and 15 other countries. It is important to note that this variant has not been described as a variant of concern yet.
“Researchers and scientists are still working hard to understand if this variant has any effect on the virus transmissibility, immunity, as well as diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics.
“This is because the variant has some similar mutations with the B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1 variants first detected in the UK, South Africa, and Brazil, respectively.”
The NCDC chief disclosed that the agency was scaling up its sequencing capacity to have a better understanding of the burden of COVID-19 variants of concern in the country.
“Last week, we sent another 100 samples to our colleagues at the ACEGID lab in Ede, and we did 30 sequences in our lab at NCDC.
“We will continue to scale the weekly number of samples sequenced as part of our surveillance,” he added.
Ihekweazu stressed that risk of virus mutation is higher when there is high transmission of the virus.
“While sequencing is important for us to understand the situation, handwashing, physical distancing and the proper use of face masks are very important to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” he concluded.