On Thursday last week, Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) executive director Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu revealed that Uganda had confirmed a new strain of the Coronavirus.
Here is what we know about it so far.
According to Prof. Kaleebu, the new strain is increasing and scientists at the UVRI have said that it has several mutations which they continue to study.
“It has about five mutations but all these are not the most worrying in the viruses we’ve seen here so far,” Prof. Kaleebu said.
The professor said that the new strain is called A23 strain which has also been reported in neighbouring Rwanda, United States of America and the United Kingdom.
According to Prof. Kaleebu, initially, Uganda had several strains of the Coronavirus that were only imported in the country from different parts of the world. The source of the A23 variant is however not known but scientists continue to carry out research about it.
How different is the new strain from the existing viruses?
Asked how different the new A23 Coronavirus strain is from what the country has experienced so far, the UVRI boss said that there will be a need for scientists to increase surveillance in order to confirm if people are more likely to fall sick with the new strain or otherwise.
“It is not known whether this one is more transmissible or not but we are going to follow up on that by carrying out laboratory checks and working with our hospitals,” he said.
Prof. Kaleebu however said that viruses tend to become weaker as they mutate which gives hope that the new strain may be weaker than the strains Uganda has experienced.
The Prof also noted that government should follow science before purchasing Covid-19 vaccines so that the vaccines could respond to the variants in the country.
In South Africa, health officials abandoned the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, stating that it is not effective against the highly contagious variant that is prevalent in South Africa.
Uganda, according to the Ministry of Health has already submitted requests to have 18 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India.
According to Dr. Ruth Aceng, the AstraZeneca vaccine has been tasted for over a century and Uganda will go ahead to receive the doses in March despite the concerns.