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SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 Variant Infection in Malayan Tigers, Virginia, USA – The Maravi Post

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Disclaimer: Early release articles are not considered as final versions. Any changes will be reflected in the online version in the month the article is officially released.

Author affiliations: Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA (P.K. Mitchell, M. Martins, L.C. Caserta, R.R. Anderson, B.D. Cronk, E.L. Goodrich, D.G. Diel); Virginia Zoo, Norfolk, Virginia, USA (T. Reilly); Virginia Department of Health, Richmond, Virginia (J. Murphy)

On April 4, 2021, a 5-year-old male Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) at the Virginia Zoo (Norfolk, VA, USA) began exhibiting lethargy, labored breathing, coughing, intermittent upper respiratory sounds, hyporexia, and mucoid nasal discharge. On April 7, another 5-year-old male Malayan tiger began experiencing labored breathing, cough, clear nasal discharge, and hyporexia. On April 10, a third Malayan tiger, a 10-year-old male, had cough and later clear nasal discharge. The tigers’ clinical signs resolved by April 15, eleven days after the outbreak began.

Zoo staff collected nasal swab and fecal samples from the 5-year-old tigers on April 9 and the 10-year-old tiger on April 13 and submitted these to Cornell University’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center (AHDC; Ithaca, NY, USA). AHDC tested samples for Bordetella sp., Chlamydia felis, Mycoplasma cynos, M. felis, Streptococcus equi subspecies zooepidemicus, influenza virus, pneumovirus, feline calicivirus, and feline herpesvirus; all results were negative. All samples tested positive for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) by EZ-SARS-CoV-2 Real-Time RT-PCR Test (Tetracore, Inc., https://tetracore.com). We isolated SARS-CoV-2 from respiratory and fecal specimens from the first tiger. Testing at the US Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories (Ames, IA, USA) confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. We screened the tiger samples using TaqPath COVID-19 RT-PCR Kit (Thermo Fisher Scientific, https://www.thermofisher.com), which revealed a spike gene dropout in samples from all 3 tigers; only the nucleoprotein and open reading frame 1ab gene targets were detected, suggesting B.1.1.7 variant infection.

Figure

Maximum-likelihood phylogenetic trees of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 from 3 Malayan tigers, Virginia, USA. Tiger samples are numbered in order of symptom onset. A) Subset of phylogenetic tree showing parent (G23236T) and grandparent (C4900T) nodes of the tiger sequences, with tips labeled as states of origin in the United States or Australia. B) Phylogenetic tree showing that other B.1.1.7 viruses detected in Virginia that contain the K558N mutation are not epidemiologically related to the sequences detected in tigers 1, 2, and 3. SNP, single-nucleotide polymorphism.

Figure. Maximum-likelihood phylogenetic trees of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 from 3 Malayan tigers, Virginia, USA. Tiger samples are numbered in order of symptom onset. A) Subset of phylogenetic tree…

We performed whole-genome sequencing on all samples by using MinION (Oxford Nanopore Technologies, https://nanoporetech.com), as previously described (1). We assembled reads using the ARTIC ncov-2019 protocol (ARTIC Network, https://artic.network) and Medaka (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) for variant calling. We obtained near-complete (29,702–29,710-bp) assemblies from all nasal swab specimens (GenBank accession nos. MZ305031–3) but no assemblies from fecal samples. We identified respiratory specimen genomes as lineage B.1.1.7 (Alpha variant) by using Pangolin version 2.4.2 (https://github.com/cov-lineages/pangolin). We used Nextstrain (https://nextstrain.org) for phylogenetic analysis of tiger-derived sequences and other B.1.1.7 sequences downloaded from GISAID (https://www.gisaid.org) on April 15, 2021 (2,3). Tiger-derived sequences all were identical, except 1 manually corrected homopolymer repeat error, and fell into a clade defined by a C4900T mutation containing other samples collected primarily in the United States. Tiger-derived sequences differed from others in the clade by 1 single-nucleotide polymorphism in the spike gene (K558N) (Figure, panel A). Using the vdb tool (4), we found 46 additional B.1.1.7 sequences that had the K558N mutation in GISAID on July 22, 2021; all were collected from Virginia during March 27–July 7, 2021. However, phylogenetic analysis of these sequences and the tiger-derived sequences showed divergence of 11 single-nucleotide polymorphism, minus the divergence producing the K558N mutation (Figure, panel B), indicating the sequences are not related epidemiologically.

The source of the tigers’ infection is unknown. The zoo has been open to the public, but transmission from a visitor is unlikely because tiger exhibit areas are separated from visitors by either a glass enclosure or >9 m distance. The most plausible explanation is that >1 tiger acquired the virus from a keeper because they had close contact. However, no employees tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 nor had symptoms during the 4 weeks before the tigers’ symptom onset. Nine keepers were responsible for the animals’ daily care; 2 other persons prepared animal diets daily. Employees were required to wear facemasks always, indoors and outdoors; everyone wore standard 2-ply surgical masks or homemade cloth facemasks. Staff also were required to wear gloves when handling and preparing food and when servicing animal areas. Furthermore, staff were required to step into an accelerated hydrogen peroxide disinfectant footbath when entering the tiger building and diet kitchen. The 3 tigers might have been infected by an employee, or 1 tiger was infected, then transmission occurred to the others. Two tigers lived in the same enclosure and had no direct contact with the third, but all 3 rotated through common enclosure spaces.

After identification of the tiger infections, 4 additional zoo animals were tested: 1 lion (Panthera leo) with lethargy and hyporexia ≈1 week after SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis in the tigers; another asymptomatic lion because of age and proximity to the first lion; and 2 degus (Octodon degus) that died in late March and had interstitial pneumonia on necropsy. AHDC tested nasal swab samples from the lions and frozen spleen and cecum samples from the degus by reverse transcription PCR; all results were negative for SARS-CoV-2.

Our findings underscore felid susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2, which also has been detected in captive snow leopards (Panthera uncia) and pumas (Puma concolor) (5). Other nonhuman species, including gorillas (Gorilla gorilla), minks (Neovison vison), and ferrets (Mustela putorius furo), have acquired SARS-CoV-2; additional species have been shown to be susceptible experimentally (57). Domestic cats and dogs in the United Kingdom and United States reportedly had B.1.1.7 infections, suggesting that mutations characterizing this lineage are not constrained to a host range (8; L. Ferasin et al., unpub. data, https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.03.18.435945). Monitoring animals for SARS-CoV-2 infection is critical to determining potential host range, particularly as new virus variants emerge and spread.

Dr. Mitchell is a research associate in the Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences at Cornell University. His primary research interest is molecular epidemiology of infectious diseases.

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DR Congo: Limitations to ‘strictly military approach’ to stem violence, mission chief warns  – The Maravi Post

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Bintou Keita argued that, for stability to return to eastern Congo, “the State must succeed in restoring and maintaining the confidence of the people in their ability to protect, administer, deliver justice and meet their basic needs.” 

Ms. Keita, who also acts as the head of the UN Stabilization Mission in the country (MONUSCO), said that she has stressed this regularly in her exchanges with the Head of State and with the Prime Minister. 

Armed violence 

Starting on November 30, the Congolese Armed Forces initiated joint military operations with the Ugandan army against the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the east. 

According to Ms. Keita, UN peacekeepers and the Mission continue to support the Armed Forces in the protection of civilians and the neutralization of armed groups.  

In May, the Congolese authorities declared a state of siege in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, whose duration has just been extended for the 13th time. 

Given the difficulties of implementing it, the Defence and Security Committee of the National Assembly, carried out an assessment of the decision and made recommendations to the Government. 

Ms. Keita saluted this “constructive and democratic approach” and called the consultations that followed it “a step in the right direction.” 

For her, the challenges facing the Government in implementing the state of siege highlight “the limits of a strictly military approach to the protection of civilians and the neutralization of armed groups.” 

In fact, the period of the state of siege saw a 10 per cent increase in the number of violations and abuses of human rights in the country.  

Humanitarian needs 

According to the Special Representative, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate in the restive east, due to insecurity, epidemics, and limited access to basic services. 

The number of internally displaced people stands at nearly 6 million, of which 51 per cent are women. This is the highest number of internally displaced people in Africa.  

Ms. Keita reiterated the appeal to international partners and donors to redouble their support for the Humanitarian Response Plan. So far, the plan is only funded at 34 per cent.  

Ms. Keita also informed that the transition plan for drawdown of MONUSCO is making progress. The next step is the drawdown from the province of Tanganyika in mid-2022. 

The Special Representative pointed out the illegal exploitation of natural resources as “a major driver of conflict”, saying it must be addressed, and commended President Tshisekedi’s intervention at the COP26 Summit, where he committed to combat deforestation in the Congo Basin rainforest and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 21 per cent, by 2030.  

Elections pending 

Looking ahead, Ms. Keita highlighted the importance of the elections scheduled for 2023, urging all political stakeholders to focus on key reforms needed to consolidate the hard-won stabilization gains and overcome continuing challenges. 

In this regard, she saluted the efforts to find an agreement on the leadership of the National Electoral Commission, known as CENI. 

She also argued that a national consensus on the reform of the electoral law will be “absolutely critical” to hold a peaceful and credible electoral process. 

Sourced from United Nations Africa Pages

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Nnamdi Kanu: The Yuletide In The Gulag! By Ozodinukwe Okenwa – The Maravi Post

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When the news came in suddenly online, last week, to the effect that the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, was scheduled to re-appear before Justice Binta Nyako at the Federal High Court in Abuja in what was described as abridgement of time application for a fast-forwarding of trial not a few Nigerians had thought that Kanu’s freedom was nigh. Those ‘celebrating’ in advance were given a rude awakening at the end of the day however.



Kanu’s leading lawyer, Barr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, had approached the Court with an application seeking an order of the court to accommodate the trial in November and December this year as against the earlier January 19, 2022 date set aside by the court for resumption of hearing.

Following the recent high-powered visit of some Igbo greats led by the First Republic legislator and former Minister of Aviation, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, to President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock tongues had started wagging as to possible amnesty or presidential grace for Kanu who is facing trial for treason and other criminal activities. The nonagenarian and other statesmen and men of God on the delegation had implored the President for a political (rather than a military) solution to the Kanu saga.

President Buhari, while confessing the difficulty of the situation and acknowledging the constitutional separation of powers, had nonetheless promised his guests that he would consider their demand. The embattled President must have been humbled by that particular supplication.

So on that day many Nigerians had wrongly believed that President Buhari had intervened presidentially (prior to his departure abroad yet again) by prevailing on the judicial high command to give Kanu a soft-landing by granting him bail.

While the Department of State Services (DSS) did not consider it propitious bringing Kanu to court Justice Nyako objected to the fast-forwarding of the trial ruling instead that the matter would come up for hearing on the 18th rather than 19th and 20th January next year as previously scheduled. Besides, the court cited crowded pending cases as basis for its inability to grant the wish of lawyer Ejiofor and co.

Recently, grandpa Amaechi and His Grace, Bishop Sunday Onuoha, had gone to the DSS detention facility in Abuja to see Kanu. Their intervention may not be unconnected with the underground ‘politicking’ aimed at freeing Kanu from his solitary confinement and consequent psychological torture he is enduring daily.

And another controversial politician with dubious intentions, ex-Governor Orji Uzor Kalu (OUK) was also reported to have visited Kanu behind bars. OUK as a politician of fortune is seen generally in the South-east as a compromised corrupt unprincipled power-hungry businessman who ventured into politics as a sure source of self-aggrandizement.

Over time post-governorship of Abia State he had had his days in court and served a quality time in prison for economic crimes valued at millions of Dollars! Even his successor, an estranged ‘godson’, Theodore Orji, is also accused of looting Abia state treasury during his 8-year governorship.

Today OUK is a free man, the Chief Whip of the Senate; he is hobnobbing with another executive crook in Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, towards the 2023 presidential poll. The latter, the godfather of Lagos politics, had recently visited Kalu at his residence in Abuja!

The OUK and MNK interface in Abuja had been denounced by both lawyer Ejiofor and the IPOB management. They frowned at the surreptitious way and manner Senator Kalu gained access to Kanu in the DSS office without the presence of his lawyers. They equally flayed the statement Kalu issued following his interaction with the IPOB champion.

While Barr. Ejiofor challenged Senator Kalu to tell the world how he went in fraudulently to talk things over with their client IPOB via a statement issued by Spokesman Emma Powerful had declared that Senator Kalu would be held responsible should anything untoward happened to their incarcerated leader.

Accusing him of being one of those that “bankrolled and sponsored the extraordinary rendition of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu from Kenya to Nigeria” the Powerful statement querried Kalu’s mission and the reason for the visit.

Senator Kalu’s intervention, given his credibility deficit, would have little or no impact on the protracted struggle for the Biafran nationhood. Elder Amaechi’s own intervention is bound to produce positive result.

Months ago the Onitsha-based ‘prophet’ Chukwuemeka Ohanaemere (aka Odumeje) had prophesied that Mazi Kanu would be released well before Christmas promising to celebrate same with him in person. He said so as he hosted lawyer Ejiofor in his church. But now that Yuletide is around the corner, weeks separated from now and then, it remains to be seen how Kanu would enjoy Xmas a free man in Onitsha or Afaraukwu-Umuahia.

For Mazi Kanu, therefore, spending the Yuletide inside the DSS gulag remains something terribly plausible unless a miracle of extraordinary proportion operated by God (or devil!) happens sooner than later. He may not believe in Christmas as a worshipper of Judaism yet Kanu deserves freedom before the rest of us celebrate the glorious birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, come December 25th.

SOC Okenwa

[email protected]

Source saharareporters

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Pics of the day: December 6, 2021 – The Maravi Post

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Sudanese demonstrators lift placards during a rally in Khartoum Bahri, on December 6, 2021, to protest a deal that saw the Prime Minister reinstated after his ouster in a mili   –  

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