Kenyan scientists have raised an alarm on a coronavirus variant they say differs from the one spreading in South Africa and Britain.
About 10 investigators from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) discovered the coronavirus mutation responsible for the COVID-19 disease.
Charles Agoti, a principal investigator and researcher, says that the variant unique to Kenya was detected in a batch of samples taken from Taita Taveta county, located in the southeastern part of the country.
“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,” Agoti said.
“It could result in an increase in the number of cases locally.”
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.
Agoti says that 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 neutralise 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.