Kenya virus mutation has too few changes to be called a new variant
Medical researchers say the unique Covid-19 variation cannot be assigned a lineage, but its study will continue
Nairobi — Kenyan medical researchers say a unique Covid-19 variant discovered in the country doesn’t have sufficient mutations to be assigned a lineage.
The variant has “one change that is suspected to be of significance”, Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) principal researcher Dr Charles Agoti said by phone. Variants in SA and the UK had eight and nine changes, respectively, he said. “We are resisting calling this a new variant because it doesn’t have many changes.”
The variant was observed in sequencing rounds carried out between March and June and another that ended in October 2020. It showed the unique change in an important protein spike in the second study, he said.
The change is unlikely to have an effect on the effectiveness of existing vaccines, and the Kemri scientists are still studying whether the variant is more transmissible, Agoti said.
“Sequencing around Kenya is still very low, only eight of 47 counties have data, thus we don’t know how widespread it is,” he said.
Researchers discovered 10 variants in the first round and 20 in the subsequent one, 16 of which were being seen in Kenya for the first time.
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