KUALA LUMPUR (March 5): 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 had flown in from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), said health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
They were found to be Covid-19 positive by a swab RT-PCR test after arriving from Dubai, he said in a post today on his Facebook account.
"The Institute for Medical Research (IMR) subsequently proceeded to do 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 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, he added.
He said the Nigerian variant, B.1.525, was first detected in the UK and Nigeria in December 2020.
Ever since then, a total of 360 sequences of this variant can be found in GISAID (a global science initiative and the 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," he said.
Noor Hisham said the Ministry of Health (MoH), through the IMR and the National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC), will constantly monitor the development of this Nigerian B.1.525 mutation and will inform the public from time to time.
"Even with the Covid-19 vaccination programme under way, public health measures must continue to be practised as we have yet to achieve herd immunity," he said.