The Covid-19 viral genes from African patients have changes that help the virus
In 2020, researchers looked at the changes in the Covid-19 viral genome, which is the complete genetic information contained in a virus. Africa’s death rate was limited by the lack of Covid-19 testing and few patients above 65 (a high-risk group) being infected.
The Covid-19 pandemic started in 2019 and caused havoc across the world. Africa accounted for only 3.5% of total deaths due to Covid-19 at the time of this research.
Covid-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Researchers wanted to map the viral Covid-19 genome found in the African population to understand what mutations, which are changes in the genetic sequence, are most common. They also wanted to look at why the Covid-19 death rate in Africa was lower than in other countries.
They searched a database known as GISAID to get the Covid-19 viral genomes from African patients. They checked for any changes in the genetic sequences and if the changes were common. They then calculated the death rate caused by Covid-19.
They checked 924 viral Covid-19 genomes from African patients in this study and found that there was a mutation in 97.2% of the genes. They think this mutation helped the virus enter humans more easily.
They found a mutation in 97.2% of the sequences that originated from Italy, and this showed that travellers from there likely infected African patients, thereby introducing the mutation into the African viral sequence.
The average age for being infected was 46 years old, and there were very few patients above 65 years compared to other non-African countries. Younger people have a higher chance of recovering and that might be why the death rate in Africa was lower than in other countries. They also noted that Africa didn’t do as much Covid-19 testing as other countries.
The findings from this study sheds light on the changes in the viral Covid-19 sequences in the African population.
Generally, this kind of information helps researchers to identify drug targets and to track how the virus spreads and infects humans.
The authors of this study were from Nigeria.
The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has claimed lots of lives, posing a dire threat to public health and the global economy. The present study determined the severe acute respiratory syndrome-2 (SARS-CoV-2) genomic variability and the contributory factors to the observed low fatality rate in Africa. To assess the SARS-CoV-2 mutational landscape, 924 viral sequences from the Africa region with their sociobiological characteristics mined from the GISAID database were analyzed. The age of infected patients, the number of tests done, confirmed cases, recovery, fatality, and countries' age distribution were obtained to determine the age distribution, testing, recovery, and fatality rate. Mutational analysis of the SARS-CoV-2 sequences revealed highly recurrent mutations in the Spike glycoprotein D614G (97.2%), concurrent R203K, and G204R (65.2% respectively) in the N protein region, and P4715L (97.2%) in the RNA dependent RNA polymerase region. COVID-19 is more severe in older people (> 65 years), Africa has a low percentage of people within this age group (4.36%). The average age of the 924 infected patients in this study is 46 years with only 47 infected patients (5.1%) above 65 years in comparison to 13.12% in countries in other continents with the highest prevalence of COVID-19. Africa's young generation, the late incidence of the disease, and adherence to public health guidelines are important indicators that may have contributed to the observed low COVID-19 deaths in Africa. However, sufficient data is still unavailable due to low testing rate to ascertain the epidemiology, transmission, genomic variation, and the true impact of the pandemic in Africa.
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