The African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases at the Redeemer’s University Nigeria, Ede, Osun State, says the strain of COVID-19 currently ravaging India has been detected in Osun and Edo states, PUNCH news reports.
The virus is the same as India’s strain, but different in characteristics, says ACEGID researcher, Prof. Christian Hapi.
According to PUNCH, this is even as renowned professor of Virology, Oyewale Tomori, said there should be an announcement to the effect that the vicious strain is already in Nigeria.
Scientists at the ACEGID had detected the strain nearly three weeks ago, and they had communicated their findings to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
Recall that the Federal Government on Monday restricted gatherings at worship centres and banned nightclubs following reports that the devastating COVID-19 strain in South Africa had spread to 23 other countries.
The PUNCH was informed on Tuesday that the detection of the Indian strain in Nigeria contributed to the fresh regulations issued by the Federal Government.
The detection had been listed on GISAID, a global science initiative that provides open access to genomic data of influenza viruses.
A notification dated April 25, 2021, sent by Prof. Hapi of the ACEGID to the NCDC reads in part, “We have found five sequences of the India B.1.617 in the country, specifically in Edo and Osun states.”
However, The PUNCH learnt that subsequent observations showed that so far, the strain had not shown the same kind of virulence it did in India.
India’s coronavirus death toll passed 250,000 on Wednesday as the World Health Organisation said the variant fuelling the surge had been found in dozens of countries across the globe.
While vaccinations have helped to ease the pandemic crisis in the United States and Europe, India is in the grip of a devastating wave.
Another 4,205 deaths were on Wednesday confirmed over the previous 24 hours, a national record, taking total fatalities to 254,197.
But many experts believe the official numbers of people dying in India, which has one of the world’s most poorly funded health care systems, are an underestimate.
“Even three to four times would be an underestimate,” Anant Bhan, an independent health policy and bioethics researcher, told AFP.
Speaking with one of our correspondents, Hapi said the information was sent to the NCDC two weeks ago.
Hapi, however, clarified that the strain in India has two more mutations than the one identified in Nigeria, which makes the one in India more aggressive.
“What we have is the B1.617 from India. That is the variant they had, but that variant has now evolved beyond the mutation that we identified.
“The one in India evolved by two mutations. The strain found in Nigeria is the same as that in India, but their own now has a couple of mutations. So, it is the same as what we detected but different in characteristics.”
Tomori, who is also Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, told one of our correspondents that he was also aware of the presence of the Indian strain, warning that it is important for the government to announce the detection of the Indian strain.
He further stressed the need to increase testing, adding that many states are no longer conducting tests for COVID-19.
“The Indian strain is not as fierce in Nigeria yet, but we are not doing enough testing,” Tomori said.
When asked what the government should do next, Tomori said he was satisfied with the decision of the Federal Government to step up enforcement.
“They have already done what needs to be done by issuing travel guidelines on passengers from India, Brazil and Turkey, plus the curfew and others announced on Monday. Perhaps, there should be an announcement that the Indian strain is already in Nigeria,” he added.