Rwandan Researchers Discover New Rare Tuberculosis Strain

(file photo).

A new tuberculosis strain has been discovered in the country by Rwandan researchers. The research started in 2019 and findings were published on June 9, 2020.

The new strain known as Lineage 8 (L8) was found in a Rwandan patient who later died of the respiratory disease last year.

Lineage 8 was found to be the oldest strain among all the previous seven tuberculosis strains that are known so far. Lineage 8 is geographically restricted to the Great Lakes Region especially in Rwanda and Uganda.

The new discovery is described as a "missing link" in the evolution of one of the world's oldest and deadliest pathogens.

The findings were published in Nature Communications, a renowned medical research publication and is titled: A Sister Lineage of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Complex Discovered in the African Great Lakes Region.

The newly discovered strain is already resistant to key drugs that are usually used to treat Tuberculosis-Rifampicin and Isoniazid.

Lineage 8 seems to infect far fewer people than other strains and has a remarkably low level of spreading from infected people. Despite massive screening by RBC researchers, no additional L8 strain was identified.

Progress of finding a vaccine

The fact that Lineage 8 contagious level is the lowest compared to other lineages gives hope to medical researchers of finding a vaccine.

Jean-Claude Semuto Ngabonziza, who led the research at Rwanda Biomedical Center, believes that the extended research on the new strain would lead to a vaccine.

"Lineage 8 does not spread like previous ones. Since it is the oldest, if we find out why it does not spread and resist modern drugs, it would lead us to the long-awaited vaccine," he said.

Tuberculosis is one of the oldest pathogens to affect humans. It has several different strains of 'lineages'.

The first six lineages have been known for over a decade and the seventh was discovered in Ethiopia five years ago adding to the latest 8th lineage.

Semuto says that more strains could be discovered in the coming years.

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