Nigerian Covid-19 variant ‘could be resistant to vaccines’
A variant of coronavirus acclaimed to have been initially detected in Nigeria contains a number of mutations that are disturbing, a report shows.
The report by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom said the variant has been detected through genome sequencing.
The report said the variant was first identified in Nigeria in December 2020.
The team said the variant has similarities in its genome to the Kent variant, B117, and it contains a number of mutations that have worried researchers, including the E484K mutation to the spike protein – a protein found on the outside of the virus that plays an important role in helping the virus to enter cells.
An associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, Dr. Simon Clarke, said the strain may be resistant to current vaccines.
“We don’t yet know how well this [new] variant will spread, but if it is successful it can be presumed that immunity from any vaccine or previous infection will be blunted,” Clarke told The Guardian UK.
This particular mutation changes the shape of the virus’ spike protein – which is responsible for gaining entry to human cells – in a way that makes it less recognisable to the body’s immune system and more resistant to the current generation of vaccines, Independent UK reported.
But despite these concerns, Public Health England insists there is no evidence it is faster spreading or more deadly than other strains.
“There is currently no evidence that this set of mutations causes more severe illness or increased transmissibility,” Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said.
According to the researchers’ report, the new variants have been found in 10 countries including Denmark, the US, South Africa and Australia, with 32 cases found in the UK so far.
The researchers’ stance may be confirming South Africa’s government on the ineffectiveness of vaccines on the variant.
South Africa suspended the start of its AstraZeneca inoculation programme over concerns the shot does not work on a new variant.
A trial showed the vaccine provides only “minimal” protection against mild to moderate Covid-19 caused by the variant first detected in South Africa, a setback to the global fight against the pandemic as many poorer nations are relying on the logistical advantages offered by the AstraZeneca shot.
But Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has granted approval for the emergency use of AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccines in the country.
The recommendation was based on rigorous scientific considerations, NAFDAC said in a statement on Thursday.
The review of the shot’s efficacy was done after receiving the “vaccine dossier” from Serum Institute of India on Feb. 10. “COVISHIELD was found safe and well-tolerated in adults above 18 years of age,” the agency said.
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