Malaysia has detected its first two Covid-19 cases of Nigerian SARS-CoV-2, also known as the B.1.525 variant, in two infected foreign nationals who flew in from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), says health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
They were found to be Covid-19 positive through a swab RT PCR test conducted upon their arrival from Dubai, he said in a Facebook post today.
“The Institute for Medical Research (IMR) subsequently did 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.
He said this includes protein spike mutations E484K, Q677H, F888L and a similar suite of protein deletions seen in the US 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.
Noor Hisham said the Nigerian variant, B.1.525, was first detected in the US and Nigeria in December 2020.
Since then, a total of 360 sequences of this variant have been 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 UK (n=73) and Nigeria (n=56).
“The Nigerian variant too may cause an increase in transmissibility as well as possible reductions in immune response,” Noor Hisham said.
He said the health ministry, through IMR and National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre, would monitor the development of the Nigerian B.1.525 mutation and keep the public informed.
“Even with the Covid-19 vaccination programme underway, public health measures must continue to be practised as we have yet to achieve herd immunity,” he said.