LEADING virologist Professor Oyewale Tomori has warned that there is a high chance that a new strain of the Covid-19 virus could mutate and spread across Nigeria because of the high incidences of community infection.
In the main, Nigeria has been spared the worst of the coronavirus pandemic with only 25,133 cases and 573 deaths. However, incidences are still rising and there is a risk of large numbers of the population being infected, especially as many Nigerians are not observing social distancing guidelines, wearing facemasks or taking other precautions such as using hand sanitizers and washing their hands.
Across large cities where business has more or less returned to normal, mist Nigerians are going about their business with total disregard for the health guidelines. As a result, Professor Tomori, a professor of virology and former vice chancellor at the Redeemer’s University in Ede, said the more there is community spread of the infection, the higher the chance of the virus mutating to form a new strain that is peculiar to Nigeria.
Professor Tomori added: “The more the community spread, the higher the chance of virus mutation.” Confirming that there are three strains of Covid-19 in Nigeria, Professor Tomori said the strains, which are classified into A, B.1 and B2-1, represent importations from different parts of the world.
He pointed out that studies principally conducted at the African Centre of Excellence for the Genomics of Infectious Disease, together with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control revealed that the first Sars-CoV-2 causing the Covid-19 virus isolated from the European traveller who introduced the disease to Nigeria is genetically related to the European virus, consistent with the known travel history of this case.
“Further studies from the Redeemer’s University, showed that genetic analyses of 20 additional Sars-CoV-2 isolated in Nigeria belong to three different lineages -A, B.1 and B.2-1. The A-line includes viruses originating from China and exported to other regions of the world – South East Asia, Japan, South Korea, Australia, the USA.
“The B.1 lineage corresponds to the Italian outbreak, while the B.2-1 line represents viruses from the UK, Europe, Jordan, Australia, USA, India, Ghana. These studies conclude that there have been various introductions of multiple lineages of Covid-19 virus into Nigeria,” Professor Tomori added.
Professor Tomori said that the Ede team found that four of the Nigerian cases were patients infected with a mutant virus. He added: “This mutation helps the virus to dominate the wild type and to evade immune interventions.”