New IHU Covid Variant Detected In France

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The B.1.640.2 variant contains 46 mutations – even more than Omicron. At least 12 cases of the new variant have been reported near Marseilles.

Even as Omicron continues to spread rapidly across the world, triggering a tsunami of cases, a new variant of Covid-19 has emerged in France recently. The B.1.640.2 variant, named IHU, was discovered by researchers at institute IHU Mediterranee Infection, PTI reported.

The B.1.640.2 variant contains 46 mutations – even more than Omicron. At least 12 cases of the new variant have been reported near Marseilles. All of them had travel history to the African country Cameroon.

The Omicron variant has about 30 mutations on the spike protein that the coronavirus uses to attach to human cells. The B.1.640.2 has not been identified in other countries so far.

What Is The IHU Covid Variant? Is It More Dangerous Than Omicron?

A yet-to-be peer-reviewed study, posted on the preprint repository MedRxiv, said the IHU variant had 46 mutations and 37 deletions resulting in 30 amino acid substitutions and 12 deletions. 

Fourteen amino acid substitutions, including N501Y and E484K, and nine deletions are located in the spike protein. N501Y and E484K mutations were also found in Beta, Gamma, Theta and Omicron variants.

“The mutation set and phylogenetic position of the genomes obtained here indicate based on our previous definition a new variant we named IHU,” the authors of the study said.

“These data are another example of the unpredictability of the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants, and of their introduction in a given geographical area from abroad,” they said.

In a Twitter post, epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding said new variants keep emerging 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,” Feigl-Ding tweeted.

“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,” he said.

No Other Country Has Reported IHU Variant Cases

So far, the B.1.640.2 has not been detected in other countries or designated as a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to the researchers, the first case of IHU variant was an adult who tested positive using RT-PCR performed in a laboratory on a nasopharyngeal sample collected in mid-November last year.

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