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A team of KWTRP scientists carried out a major genomic epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 infections in Kenya during the early phase of the epidemic (March – July 2020). Researchers provide evidence for at least 35-40 unique introductions of the virus in the coast region – specifically the epidemic that was largely observed in Mombasa County.

Group photo of KWTRP sequencing team

Published in Nature, this work by George Githinji and colleagues shows that Europe was a major source of introductions into Kenya. They also saw evidence of introductions through ports of entry with neighbouring countries which however did not establish local transmissions. Control efforts by the Ministry of Health at the time were aimed at limiting local transmission and reducing the number of global introductions.

Government efforts and Ministry of Health guidelines were important control measures and partly worked by reducing introduction of specific lineages from taking hold and potentially slowed down the number of infections. Nonetheless a few asymptomatic cases were sufficient to seed the epidemic. This underlines the severe challenge to the strategy that aimed at preventing the introduction of virus as any cases that escaped the net had potential to establish community spread.

Read the publication Tracking the introduction and spread of SARS-CoV-2 in coastal Kenya on the Nature website