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France scientists discover new Covid-19 variant, IHU

By Esther Kalu

Scientists from France have discovered a new COVID-19 varaiant named IHU, which has 46 mutations and this discovery is coming when the world is grappling with the highly infectious Omicron, strain of Covid.

The scientists have described the new variant as a potentially worrying one, as the new B.1.640.2 variant has so far infected 12 people living in southeastern France.

As published in a paper on medRxiv, the first case of IHU was said to have been linked to a person with a travel history to Cameroon, western Africa.

The authors of the paper claimed that the person who was idenitifed with the IHU variant, was fully-vaccinated but tested positive for covid after returning from a three-day trip to Cameroon.

Through a social media post on Wednesday, an epidemiologist and a fellow at Federation of American Scientists, Eric Feigl-Ding stated that the new variant was being monitored to evaluate how infectious or dangerous it could prove to be, adding that the monitor will enable them determine how potent it is as compared to the omicron variant.

“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 said.

“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 added.

As gathered, in the analysis of the published paper, the authors found “46 mutations” which had not been spotted in other countries, nor labelled a variant under investigation by the WHO.

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”.

Arguing that the emergence of the new variant emphasised the importance of “genomic surveillance”, the authors said their observations once again showed the “unpredictability of the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants”.

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