Another COVID Variant: IHU Strain Detected In France, 12 Infections Already Reported

( IBT )

As the highly infectious Omicron variant continues to spread around the world, marking record cases of COVID-19, scientists are now concerned about a new strain of the virus that has already infected 12 people in the Southeastern part of France.

The variant, known as IHU or B.1.640.2, was first detected in France and has 46 mutations.

It was linked to a person who had traveled to the African country Cameroon, according to researchers from the Mediterranee Infection University Hospital Institute (IHU), who published a paper on medRxiv on Dec. 29. The paper has not been published in an academic journal.

Professor Philippe Colson, who leads the IHU department that discovered the strain, said, as reported by News.com.au, “We indeed have several cases of this new variant in the Marseilles geographical area. We named it 'variant IHU.' Two new genomes have just been submitted.”

The paper’s authors said the IHU variant has not been identified in any other countries at this time and is not currently listed as a variant under investigation by the World Health Organization.

Since its discovery on Dec. 10, the variant has not rapidly spread, but researchers are concerned over its 46 mutations which could evade vaccines, the Daily Mail reported.

The IHU strain was detected during next-generation sequencing. The patient, which the variant was first identified in, was fully vaccinated and had tested positive for the virus after returning from a trip to Cameroon, according to the research paper.

“Subsequent detection by qPCR of three mutations in the spike gene to screen for variants, as systematically performed in France in case of SARS-CoV-2 positivity, revealed an atypical combination with L452R-negativity, E484K-positivity, and E484Q-negativity…that did not correspond to the pattern of the Delta variant involved in almost all SARS-CoV-2 infections at that time,” News.com.au reported, citing the paper.

It is unclear if the IHU variant will become a “variant of concern” or if it is more transmissible or severe than the Omicron or Delta variants.

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