IHU variant – New COVID-19 variant discovered in France

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IHU variant, a potential new coronavirus (COVID-19) variant has been detected overseas, according to multiple media reports. The “IHU” variant reportedly shows strain carrying the N501Y mutation which existed in the  Alpha variant. Scientists believe the new strain also carries E484K mutation making it vaccine-resistant.

The variant dubbed “IHU” was detected in France earlier this week, according to a FOX5 NY report. The variant has already infected 12 people living near Marseille.

At this time, the World Health Organization (WHO) has not labeled the new strain a variant under investigation.

The WHO considers variants of concern ones that increase in transmissibility or increase in virulence or decrease vaccine effectiveness.

So far officials have found that the new variant has 46 mutations, according to FOX5. The cases have been linked to travel to Cameroon.

The strain carries the E484K and N501Y mutations, which can make it more resistant to vaccines and can make it more transmissible, according to a paper posted on medRxiv.

Omicron accounted for 95% of new coronavirus infections in the U.S. last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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About IHU variant:

The “IHU variant” may not even be newer than the Omicron variant. The first reported case was detected in mid-November 2021. This may have predated reports of the Omicron variant spreading in South Africa. A man living in southeastern France had returned home from a trip to Cameroon. Two days later he began experiencing mild respiratory symptoms. The next day, the man, who was already vaccinated against Covid-19, was tested for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). That nasopharyngeal sample came back positive and was eventually found to be harboring the B.1.640.2 variant. Since then, at least 11 other people in the same vicinity have tested positive for the B.1.640.2 variant.

In the pre-print, the IUH team (consisting of Philippe Colson, Jérémy Delerce, Emilie Burel, Jordan Dahan, Agnès Jouffret, Florence Fenollar, Nouara Yahi, Jacques Fantini, Bernard La Scola, and Didier Raoult) indicated that this variant has 46 nucleotide substitutions and 37 deletions.

WHO Downplays Threat of IHU variant (Covid-19 Variant):

The World Health Organization said a coronavirus variant found in France hasn’t become much of a threat since it was first identified in November.

The variant “has been on our radar,” Abdi Mahamud, a WHO incident manager on Covid, said at a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday. “That virus had a lot of chances to pick up.”

The variant was identified in 12 people in the southern Alps around the same time that omicron was discovered in South Africa last year. The latter mutation has since traveled the globe and kindled record levels of contagion, unlike the French one that researchers at the IHU Mediterranee Infection — helmed by scientist Didier Raoult –nicknamed IHU.

The first patient identified with the variant was vaccinated and had just returned from Cameroon, IHU researchers wrote in a paper published on the medRxiv server in late December where they first drew attention to the atypical mutations.

It’s “too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological or clinical features of this IHU variant based on these 12 cases,” they wrote in the article, which hasn’t been peer reviewed.

Raoult stirred controversy in the early stages of the pandemic by recommending treatment with hydroxychloroquine.

The WHO monitors multiple variants, and when it finds one may pose a significant risk, it declares it a “variant of concern.” This one is only under investigation.

How do experts see the new variant?

Experts are advising caution until more is known about this or other previous variants like the Omicron. They say new variants keep emerging during a pandemic but not all of them necessarily are virulent or cause severe illness. So, it is wise to wait for more information and not jump to conclusions.

“There are scores of new variants discovered all the time, but it does not necessarily mean they will be more dangerous. 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,” said epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding.

COVID-19 wave in France:

On Tuesday, France had reported 270,000 COVID-19 cases as health minister Olivier Veran warned that daily coronavirus cases could hit 300,000 shortly.

The French government has declared it will block unvaccinated people from several venues although the country had unveiled COVID-19 health passes allowing only vaccinated people to enter restaurants and cinema halls.

The new legislation proposes to remove the option of showing a “negative” test in health passes cutting off people who haven’t been vaccinated from boarding trains including other restrictions.

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