After Omicron, New Variant 'IHU' Reported in France: What We Know So Far

Believed to have 46 mutations, 12 cases of the variant have been reported so far near Marseille.
The Quint

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As the world is grappling with a surge of COVID-19 cases due to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, another variant called 'IHU' has reportedly been detected in France.

The variant was discovered by academics at the IHU Mediterranee Infection on 10 December, Daily Mail reported.

Believed to have 46 mutations, 12 cases of the variant have been reported so far near Marseille.

Here's what we know so far:

  • The variant has been dubbed B.1.640.2, and its discovery was announced in a paper posted on medRxiv.

  • Philippe Colson, from IHU Mediterranee Infection, Marseille, France, told IANS that "it is too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological or clinical features of this IHU variant based on these 12 cases."

  • The first patient was a vaccinated adult who had returned to France from a trip to Cameroon, in Central Africa.

  • As was in the first patient's case, respiratory samples collected from seven other positive patients living in the same geographical area exhibited the same combination of mutations that did not correspond to the pattern of the Delta variant, Colson said, as quoted by IANS.

  • The variant has not been reported in any other country so far.

  • It is yet to be labelled a variant under investigation by the World Health Organization.

Meanwhile, epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding stressed, in a Twitter thread, that though new variants kept emerging, it did not necessarily mean they would be more dangerous.

He said, "What makes a variant more well-known and dangerous is its ability to multiply because of the number of mutations it has in relation to the original virus. This is when it becomes a 'variant of concern', like Omicron, which is more contagious and more past immunity evasive. It remains to be seen in which category this new variant will fall."

India is seeing a spike in Omicron cases, with a total of 1,892 cases of the variant reported across 23 states and Union Territories so far.

(With inputs from the Daily Mail and IANS.)

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Published: 04 Jan 2022,03:29 PM IST