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France reports new coronavirus variant detected

Tuesday, January 4th 2022 - 20:10 UTC
Full article 2 comments
IHU has not been detected in any other country so far IHU has not been detected in any other country so far

French scientists have warned the world about yet another variant of SARS-Cov-2 after spotting it in a vaccinated patient who had just returned from Cameroon, it was reported in a medical journal last week.

The new strain, B.1.640.2 -also referred to as “IHU”-, was detected in 12 patients living in the same geographical area in southeastern France, but researchers said it was too soon to describe the features of the new coronavirus version. The strain is related to the B.1.640 lineage, which was classified as a variant under monitoring (VUM) by the World Health Organization (WHO) in November.

Genome analysis revealed this particular strain has 46 mutations, although 12 cases were not enough to draw any conclusions, other than the unpredictability of the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants.

The B.1.640.2 has not been identified in other countries so far or labelled a variant under investigation by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“As this pandemic drags on, it’s possible that new variants could evade our countermeasures and become fully resistant to current vaccines or past infection, necessitating vaccine adaptations,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had warned last week.

The study, published on MedRxiv Dec. 29 is yet to be peer-reviewed. It mentions 46 mutations and 37 deletions resulting in 30 amino acid substitutions and 12 deletions.

Amino acids are molecules that combine to form proteins, and both are the building blocks of life. Fourteen amino acid substitutions, including N501Y and E484K, and nine deletions are located in the spike protein. Most currently used vaccines are targeted at the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, which the virus uses to enter and infect the cells. N501Y and E484K mutations were earlier 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 study said.

The first case of IHU was detected from a sample collected in mid-November last year, it was reported.

Many countries are currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant which was first identified in South Africa and Botswana in November last year. Since then, the variant of concern has spread to over 100 countries.

Tags: COVID-19, France.

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