The most mutated variant of the coronavirus to date has been found in travelers from Tanzania, prompting scientists to call for increased surveillance in a country that has largely ignored the pandemic.
A According to Tulio de Oliveira, director of Krisp, a scientific institute that performs genetic testing for 10 African countries, a report submitted to the World Health Organization and regional bodies shows the strain contains 10 more mutations than any other. version. Krisp, who discovered a new strain in South Africa last year that propelled a surge in infections in the country, found the new variant in travelers arriving in Angola from Tanzania.
“It’s potentially interesting,” de Oliveira said in an interview on Friday.
Variants of the coronavirus have raised concerns globally, for example, the one first identified in South Africa, known as 501Y.V2, has been shown to be more infectious and able to escape more easily to certain vaccines. Yet no work has yet been done on the version found in three Tanzanian travelers to determine whether it is more infectious or more serious than other strains.
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The newly discovered version will be grown in Krisp’s labs and an attempt will be made to determine how easily it eludes antibodies, de Oliveira said. The variant comes from a lineage of the virus first identified in China, while many others trace their roots to Europe.
Under the recently deceased President John Magufuli, Tanzania stopped publishing data on coronavirus infections and opened up the economy, including the resort island of Zanzibar, which attracts international tourists. Magufuli’s position has drawn criticism from neighbors and the WHO, as anecdotal evidence suggests that many people in the country have contracted the disease.
Her successor, Samia Suluhu Hassan, has yet to say whether she will change her policy.
“This can be a big wake-up call for Tanzania,” said de Oliveira.
– With the help of Janice Kew