While the world is dealing with the rapid increase in Omicron cases, a new variant of COVID-19 has been identified in France.
The B.1.640.2 variant has been named IHU as it was discovered by researchers from Méditerranée Infection in Marseille, part of France’s Instituts hospitalo-universitaires (IHU, or University Hospital Institutes).
Till now, nearly 12 cases of the IHU variant have been registered near Marseilles and have been linked to Africa’s Cameroon where Omicron was also discovered.
Here’s what we know about the IHU variant of COVID-19
What is the IHU variant?
According to reports, the IHU variant’s genetic sequencing shows 46 mutations and 37 deletions, which are more than the Omicron variant and mostly affect the spike protein.
Un nouveau variant COVID-19 à été détecté à l’IHU Méditerranée Infection issu de patients de Forcalquier. Il a été baptisé variant IHU et déposé sur GISAID sous le nom de B.1.640.2. pic.twitter.com/Rh3klIxy0w
— IHU Méditerranée Infection (@IHU_Marseille) December 9, 2021
As per a Forbes report, the first case of IHU was detected in France in mid-November 2021, which means it was detected before the first case of Omicron. The patient was a man who had returned to France from Africa and developed symptoms, including respiratory problems. He soon tested positive for COVID-19.
Is the COVID-19 IHU variant more contagious?
Other than France, no other country has detected IHU cases till now. At the moment, it is unclear if the IHU strain is stronger or more contagious than the other known strains, including Omicron.
That is the reason B.1.640.2 has not yet been marked as a variant of concern, a variant of interest, or a variant under investigation by the World Health Organization.
Hero and Feature Image Credit: National Cancer Institute/Unsplash