Nigerian variant in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has detected its first two Covid-19 cases from the Nigerian SARS-CoV-2 virus, also known as the B.1.525 variant, in two foreign nationals who had flown in from the United Arab Emirates, says Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

They were found to be Covid-19 positive through an RT PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) swab test after arriving from Dubai, he said in a Facebook post yesterday.

“The Institute for Medical Research (IMR) subsequently proceeded to do a full genome sequencing due to their travel history.

“Further analysis indicated the presence of all the reported mutations corresponding to this variant, ” he said.

Dr Noor Hisham said this includes protein spike mutations E484K, Q677H, F888L and a similar suite of protein deletions seen in the UK variant, B.1.1.7.

The E484K protein spike mutation is of high concern as this mutation has been reported to evade the immune system, he added.

He said the Nigerian variant, B.1.525, was first detected in the United Kingdom and Nigeria last December.

Since then, a total of 360 sequences of this variant can be found in GISAID (a global science initiative and primary source for genomic data of influenza viruses), with the highest submission from Denmark (n=121), followed by the United Kingdom (n=73) and Nigeria (n=56).

“The Nigerian variant too may cause increase in transmissibility as well as possible reductions in immune response, ” he said.

Dr Noor Hisham said the Health Ministry, through IMR and the National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre, will constantly monitor the development of this Nigerian B.1.525 mutation and will keep the public updated.

“Even with the vaccination programme underway, public health measures must continue to be practised as we have yet to achieve herd immunity, ” he said. — Bernama

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