Investigators from the Kenya Medical Research Institute, or KEMRI, have discovered a new coronavirus variant that differs from the one spreading in Britain and South Africa.
Charles Agoti, a principal investigator and researcher, says that the variant could result in an increase in the number of cases locally.
“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.”
The Kemri scientist said the change is unlikely to question the effectiveness of the vaccine and that they are still studying whether the new variant could be more transmissible.
“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 neutralize the virus effectively,” 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.
KEMRI scientists discovered 10 variants in the first round and 20 in the subsequent one, 16 of which were unique to Kenya.