Kenya free of new COVID virus strain as KEMRI confirms 16 lineages

Written By: Margaret Kalekye

KEMRI has stepped up monitoring of new variants and will report our findings on a monthly basis

Kenya is free of the new coronavirus strain that is spreading fast in Europe.

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Kenya scientists Wednesday confirmed that Genome sequencing for Covid-19 cases in Nairobi and Coast had established new lineages but none of the two variants of concern identified in the UK and South Africa had hit the country.

“None of the lineages that are described as “variants of concern” (B.1.1.7/501Y.V1 and B.1.351/501Y.V2) were detected in this new Kenyan dataset. This includes 20 samples collected from October which coincide with the start of the 2nd wave” a report by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) reads.

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However, the scientists have revealed mutations leading to 16 new lineages have been identified since March.

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“We previously sequenced 294 genomes sampled from the coastal region and Nairobi and identified 10 circulating SARS-CoV-2 lineages in Kenya between March and June 2020. Additional sequencing of 205 genomes sampled from the coastal region between June and October 2020 identified 16 circulating lineages” said Kenya’s leading research institute KEMRI.

Spread in Africa cannot be ruled out

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We are however not out of the woods yet, as the researchers continue to study the new mutations whose significance is yet to be fully understood.

“However, some of the Kenyan SARS-CoV-2 genomes have mutations whose significance is yet to be fully understood” the researchers warn.

Although the UK strain has not been reported in Africa, the researchers warn that its spread cannot be ruled out with South Africa’s V2 strain having been reported in Botswana.

“We are sequencing samples from October to present and going forward we propose surveillance of 50 samples each week from across the various testing laboratories and ports of entry to monitor for new variants and will report our findings on a monthly basis. We plan to sequence approximately 400 samples between January and the end of February 2021 across multiple sites in Kenya”

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The SARS-CoV-2 is a novel beta coronavirus, first detected in Wuhan, China, in late December 2019. In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a global pandemic.

Kenya up to date has confirmed 98,432 positive cases and 1,716 deaths.




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