South African variant of COVID-19 detected in Sri Lanka

63

A SARS-CoV-2 variant which belongs to the B.1.351 lineage and was originated in South Africa has been detected in Sri Lanka, says Director of the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine of Sri Jayewardenepura University Dr. Chandima Jeewandara.

This strain was identified in an individual returning from Tanzania who is currently staying at a quarantine centre, he added.

Speaking further, Dr. Jeewandara said 93 viruses were sequenced from all over the country. “And we have found that 81 of them belong to the Sri Lankan strain which is B.1.411.”

He added that one of the viruses belongs to B.1.428 lineage which is a European strain.

Meanwhile, one significant mutation named E4844K has been noticed among the 81 samples received from all over the country.

Five Variants of Concern (VOC) were among the sequenced samples, Dr. Jeewandara said, adding that four of them belong to the UK variant which is of B.1.1.1.7 lineage.

The remaining variant belonged to the South African variant (B.1.351), he revealed.

This is the first time the South African variant of COVID-19 is reported in Sri Lanka, he noted. “It has the ability to escape certain vaccine-induced immunity.”

The B.1.351 variant first emerged in October 2020 in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province.

Reportedly, more than 30 countries including the Philippines, Mozambique and Kenya have confirmed positive cases of this virus strain so far.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), preliminary studies have suggested that the B.1.351 variant is associated with “a higher viral load”, suggesting “potential for increased transmissibility”.

However, there was “no clear evidence” of this coronavirus variant being associated with more severe disease or worse outcomes, the UN body has said further.