New IHU variant in France has more mutations than Omicron
A new strain of coronavirus—IHU (B.1.640.2)—has been discovered in France that is more mutated than Omicron. Researchers say it has 46 mutations and 37 deletions, likely making it highly infectious and more resistant to vaccines. Twelve IHU cases have been discovered near Marseilles with a travel history to Cameroon. The World Health Organization is yet to classify it as a variant under investigation.
Why does this story matter?
Omicron, a coronavirus variant carrying 32 mutations, has triggered widespread outbreaks in several parts of the world, mainly in Europe. Though Omicron is slowly becoming the dominant variant, the more heavily mutated IHU variant presents a new threat. Notably, since being detected in South Africa on November 24, 2021, Omicron spread to over 100 countries.
Where was the variant detected?
Academics from the IHU Mediterranee Infection Institute discovered the new 'IHU' variant. The genome was obtained by using GridION instruments and Oxford Nanopore Technologies. "Fourteen amino acid substitutions, including N501Y and E484K, and nine deletions are located in the spike protein," said the research paper detailing the variant. "This genotype pattern led to create (sic) a new Pangolin lineage named B.1.640.2..." it added.
Not all variants are dangerous: Expert
New variants emerge all the time, but that does not indicate they will be more harmful, epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding said on Twitter. "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. Feigl-Ding added it is unclear which group this new variety would fall into.
COVID-19 cases around the globe
Globally, over 292 million COVID-19 cases have been reported since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 tracker. The United States has reported the most cumulative cases, followed by India and Brazil. Over 5.4 million people died globally due to COVID-19. The amount of COVID-19 vaccine doses provided worldwide also reached over 9.2 billion.