IHU variant of Covid-19: This variant, B.1.640, has been detected mainly in France so far, although it has also been detected in other countries. There are 46 mutations in this variant, including some in the spike protein.

Meanwhile, the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus continues to infect large numbers of people across the globe, but news on Tuesday spread rapidly about the emergence of another highly-mutated variant, raising fears of yet another wave of infections. In addition to France, this variant, B.1.640, has also been detected in other countries. A variant was reported to have 46 mutations, including some in the spike protein.

IHU variant of Covid-19

Not a new variant

It is not a new variant. It has been around for at least three months now. The sudden discussion has been sparked by circulating a week-old study by researchers from Méditerranée Infection in Marseille, part of Institut hospitalo-universitaires (IHU), the French system of public university hospitals.

The study reports the detection of a new variant in November last year among 12 people living in the same geographical area of southeastern France, one of whom had recently returned from a trip to Cameroon. These people had a variant very similar to that they had identified earlier and named IHU.

A variant of IHU referred to by the researchers is B.1.640, which was discovered in January last year, according to global databases. Researchers have now classified the sub-lineage found in November by French researchers as B.1.640.2.

Spread is not rapid

At least 400 infections with the B.1.640 variant have so far been identified by outbreak.info, a website that tracks the prevalence of different variants in genome sequencing databases. At least 19 countries have reported the infection. Unusually, one of the sequences also originates from India, the only one out of the roughly 90,000 sequences from India deposited in the global databases.

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287 cases of this variant have been confirmed in France, with the highest number of sequences coming from that country. There are also 16 cases from Germany and 17 from the UK. However, it appears that this variant is more prevalent in Congo, where 39 out of the 454 genome sequences so far belong to the B.1.640 lineage.

Back in November, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified B.1.640 as a variant under monitoring, or VUM, the categorisation for a variant worth monitoring.

Nothing to worry about

Despite the large number of significant mutations in this variant that have attracted the attention of researchers and caused concern among the public, the B.1.640 is not spreading at a rate that is alarming. The spread of Omicron is certainly more alarming. The website outbreak.info reports that this variant was last detected on December 25. In the global databases, no new cases have been reported since then.

There is no reason to panic or worry at this time, given the evidence. “It’s obviously something that needs to be watched closely in the coming weeks,” said Vinod Scaria, a scientist at the Institute of Genomic and Integrative Biology in Delhi.

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IHU variant of Covid-19

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