A new COVID-19 variant with the most divergent mutations has been found in travelers from Tanzania, according to a scientific research institute based in South Africa.
Professor Tulio de Oliveira, director of Krisp, a research and innovation sequencing platform, said the variant had been found in travelers arriving Angola from Tanzania.
“Whilst we have only detected three cases with this new VOI, this warrants urgent investigation as the source country, Tanzania, has a largely undocumented epidemic and few public health measures in place to prevent spread within and out of the country,’’ Oliveira wrote on Twitter.
Tanzania, stopped releasing COVID-19 results almost a year ago, with 509 cases reported and 21 deaths. The country’s late President John Pombe Magufuli who succumbed to a heart condition over a week ago had declared the East African nation free of the pandemic.
The new variant, according to Oliveira is the most diverse among lineage sequencers ever described.
“We decided to report this as a new VOI given the constellation of mutations with known or suspected biological significance, specifically resistance to neutralizing antibodies and potentially increased transmissibility,’’ he said, adding that, “this VOI has 31 amino acids mutations.”
Last year, Krisp, the organisation which Oliveira heads, discovered the South African variant, also known as 501Y.V2. This particular variant had a number of mutations on its spike protein, which increases the efficacy of the virus to infect humans and potentially poses problems of vaccine escape.