Kenyan scientists have pounded the alarm over a new COVID-19 strain they hold varies from the one spreading in Britain and South Africa.
About 10 investigators from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) discovered the mutation of the virus responsible for the COVID-19 disease.
The Voice of America (VOA) on Tuesday reported that the KEMRI scientists say that the variant unique to Kenya was detected in a batch of samples taken from Taita Taveta County.
“Our interpretation is that because in this one place in Kenya we were seeing, it represents the majority of the sequenced samples; it does imply that actually, it could if it has intrinsic properties, be more transmissible. It could result in an increase in the number of cases locally,” Charles Agoti, a principal investigator and researcher at KEMRI said.
Between June and October of last year, KEMRI sequenced around 205 genomes in the coastal region and further identified around 16 circulating mutations all of which have so far have proven harmless.
According to the scientist, the variant will not at this stage have an impact on the effectiveness of new coronavirus vaccines.
“I think it’s unlikely this is just only one change in the about 1,200 amino acids-long spike protein, so still there are very many other bits of the virus which the current vaccines target and can be able to neutralize the virus effectively,” Agoti said.
According to the World Health Organization, these variants of concern which are on the rise in 47 countries in Africa may impact a person’s immune response and need to be investigated further.
Further, according to Rudi Eggers, the WHO representative in Kenya the mutations are a cause of concern worldwide.
“So, the vaccines as far as we can say will still be effective as far as we can notice at the moment, but this is very early days, and we will have to do more research on that, but early indications deem that the vaccines that are generally available against this virus are still holding and still are protective; but it’s possible that actually there will be a decrease in the efficacy of the vaccine,” Eggers said.
Brazil, the World Health Organization noted, is one of the countries where a new variant has also been found.