WHO announces new variant IHU detected for the first time in France

The World Health Organization (WHO) has spoken out about the variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, called IHU or B.1.640.2, first detected in France at the end of 2021.

The new variant was officially first recorded in France last month, after patients from Marseilles in the south of France began to show symptoms in November. At least 12 cases of infection with the IHU variant have been reported. allegedly in connection with travel to the African country Cameroon. These cases were confirmed after being discovered by researchers from the Institute of Hospitals of the Mediterranean Infectious University (IHU).

Picture 1 of WHO announces new variant IHU detected for the first time in France
French scientists have discovered a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The IHU variant has 46 mutations, raising concerns among experts that it may be resistant to current vaccines, although the variant does not appear to be capable of spreading rapidly, especially when compared with the Omicron variant that co-occurs. time, but has now spread globally. Information about the IHU variant began to appear at the end of 2021, but was only prominently published in international newspapers this week, after attracting the attention of experts outside of France following the article. Posted on 12/29.

On January 4, speaking to the media about the IHU variant, Abdi Mahamud, an official from the WHO's COVID-19 Situation Management Support Group, stated that WHO "had its eye on" IHU. According to the official, a positive sign is that this variant has not spread quickly. WHO is currently evaluating the IHU and will only identify it as a "variable of concern" (VOC) if it finds a variant that poses a serious risk.

International experts also considered downplaying the risk posed by IHUs, with many saying that Omicron had overwhelmed the IHU. According to Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, the fact that IHU appeared before Omicron, but at the moment this new variant is "not too much of a concern".

Research by French scientists shows that IHU carries the mutation N501Y - first recorded in the Alpha variant, and medical experts believe that this mutation may make the variant more contagious. In addition, IHU also carries the E484K mutation, which means it may be more resistant to the vaccine. In total, IHU had 46 mutations and 37 deletion mutations. The researchers say this is another example of the unpredictability of the emergence of variants and the transmissibility of foreign variants.

The first case of IHU infection in France was a man who had received the basic dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, returning from Cameroon in November.