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Kenya Free Of New COVID Virus Strain, But Mutations Raise New Worries

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Kenya is free of the new coronavirus strain that is spreading fast in Europe and causing worries about the second wave being more disastrous. Kenyan scientists today confirmed that genome sequencing for Covid-19 cases in Nairobi and Coast had established new lineages but none of the two variants identified in the UK and South Africa.

“None of the lineages that are described as variants of concern (B.1.1.7/501Y.V1 and B.1.351/501Y.V2) were detected in this new Kenyan data set. This includes 20 samples collected from October which coincide with the start of the 2nd wave,” says a report by Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the government-run premier medical research organization.

Worryingly, the scientists have revealed mutations leading to 16 new lineages identified since March. “We previously sequenced 294 genomes sampled from the coastal region and Nairobi and identified 10 circulating SARS-CoV-2 lineages in Kenya between March and June 2020. Additional sequencing of 205 genomes sampled from the coastal region between June and October 2020 identified 16 circulating lineages,” said KEMRI, Kenya’s leading research institute. The scientists warn that the country is not out of the woods yet, as researchers continue to study the new mutations whose significance is “yet to be fully understood.”

Although the UK strain has not been reported in Africa, the researchers warn that its spread cannot be ruled out with South Africa’s V2 strain having been reported in Botswana.

“We are sequencing samples from October to present and going forward we propose surveillance of 50 samples each week from across the various testing laboratories and ports of entry to monitor for new variants and will report our findings on a monthly basis. We plan to sequence approximately 400 samples between January and the end of February 2021 across multiple sites in Kenya”

The SARS-CoV-2 is a novel beta coronavirus, first detected in Wuhan, China, in late December 2019. In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a global pandemic. Kenya up to date has confirmed 98,432 positive cases and 1,716 deaths.

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BT Reporter
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