As the world struggles to deal with an increase in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant, scientists in France have discovered another variant known as IHU. Academics at the IHU Mediterranee Infection recently discovered the new B.1.640.2 variant, which has so far infected 12 people living in southeastern France, according to independent.co.uk.
According to researchers in a paper published on medRxiv, the first case was linked to a person with a travel history to Cameroon, western Africa.
However, experts were quick to point out that just because a new variant was discovered did not mean IHU would be as infectious as other strains, including Omicron.
The authors discovered “46 mutations” in the study that had not previously been identified in other countries or labeled as a variant under investigation by the WHO.
Next-generation sequencing was used to obtain the genomes.
The paper’s authors claimed that the person who tested positive for the IHU variant had been fully vaccinated. After returning from a three-day trip to Cameroon, the individual tested positive for covid.
The authors of the research paper said “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”.
The authors argued that the emergence of the new variant highlighted the importance of “genomic surveillance,” and that their findings demonstrated the “unpredictability of the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants.”
Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, said in a lengthy Twitter thread that the new variant was being monitored to determine how infectious or dangerous it could be.
“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.”
He added, “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.”
What does this new development mean for the world? Let’s keep our fingers crossed.