A new study has found that the vast majority of coronavirus genomes from Africa are closely related to a single lineage that is different from the ones spreading in Europe and North America. The study, published in the journal Nature, analyzed over 100,000 genomes of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Of these genomes, only 3.8 percent belonged to lineages that have been previously identified in Europe and North America. The rest belonged to a single lineage known as 20A.EU1.
This lineage is thought to have first emerged in Africa sometime around mid-October 2020. It then rapidly spread across the continent and has now become the predominant strain circulating in Africa.
It had 1.3 billion people as of 2018. The continent is home to 54 sovereign countries, the world’s youngest population, and a rising middle class. Despite this, Africa remains the world’s poorest and most underdeveloped continent – as well as being the most affected by HIV/AIDS.
The outbreak of COVID-19 in Africa has been relatively slow compared to other continents but was spreading rapidly with over 3 million confirmed cases and over 75 thousand deaths last August 2020.
There are a number of reasons why Africa has been spared the worst of the pandemic so far.
These include the young age structure of the population (the median age is just 19 years old), lower levels of urbanization, and better health outcomes overall thanks to recent progress in combating diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria.