KUALA LUMPUR, March 5 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has discovered two Covid-19 cases with the Nigerian variant (B1.525) of SARS-Cov-2 in Malaysia.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, in a statement, said that the variant was detected in two foreigners who returned from Dubai.
“Known as B.1.525, the Nigerian variant was first detected in the UK (United Kingdom) and Nigeria in December 2020,” Dr Noor Hisham said.
Dr Noor Hisham said that further analysis by the Institute of Medical Research found all reported mutations corresponding to this variant.
“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.
“The Nigerian variants too may cause (an) increase in transmissibility as well as possible reductions in immune response,” the Health director-general added.
The Conversation, on March 1, said there is no evidence that suggests that the B.1.525 variant is more transmissible or if it could lead to more severe disease. However, it said that scientists are keeping a close eye on this variant because of the E484K mutation.
A Nigerian scientist who studied this variant said that it could cause more severe signs and symptoms of Covid-19.
Dr Noor Hisham said that even with the rollout of the national Covid-19 vaccination programme, public health measures must still be continued to be practiced as herd immunity has yet to be achieved.
“The public is advised to always practice personal hygiene by washing their hands regularly, wear their face masks especially in public places, and maintaining physical distancing at all times,” he said.
“MOH through IMR and the National CPRC (Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre) will constantly monitor the development of this Nigerian B1.525 mutation and will inform the public from time to time.”