New ‘IHU’ Covid Variant With 46 Mutations Discovered In France
A new coronavirus variant with 46 mutations has been identified by scientists in France.
Scientists have discovered a number of new variants following the initial COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, with members of the public experiencing different symptoms and levels of severity depending on the variant.
After previously identifying the Delta and Omicron strains of the virus, scientists at the IHU Méditerranée Infection in Marseille announced a new B.1.640.2 variant, named IHU, found in southeastern France.
The first case of the new variant has been linked to a person with a travel history to Cameroon, western Africa. In a paper published on medRxiv and cited by The Independent, authors claimed the person identified with the IHU variant was fully vaccinated, and that they tested positive for COVID-19 following a three-day trip to Cameroon.
So far 12 people have been infected with the strain, with researchers having found ’46 mutations’ of the virus which had not been spotted in other countries or labelled as a variant by the World Health Organisation. The genomes were obtained by next-generation sequencing.
The authors explained ‘subsequent detection… of three mutations in the spike gene to screen for variants… did not correspond to the pattern of the Delta variant involved in almost all SARS-CoV-2 infections at that time’.
Following the discovery, Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and a fellow at Federation of American Scientists, said the new variant was being monitored but stressed that the discovery of new strains ‘does not necessarily mean they will be more dangerous.’
He continued: ‘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.’
Feigl-Ding added that it ‘remains to be seen in which category this new variant will fall.’
In their paper, the scientists explained the observations of the new strain ‘show once again the unpredictability of the emergence of new #SARSCoV2 variants and their introduction from abroad, and they exemplify the difficulty to control such introduction and subsequent spread’.
The findings posted on medRxiv have reportedly not yet been peer-reviewed, though Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London, claimed B.1.640.2 has been around for some time and actually ‘predates that of the Omicron variant by several weeks.’
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