Sunday, Jun 26, 2022

New Covid-19 Variant 'IHU' More Infectious Than Omicron Discovered In France: What We Know

While governments across the world scramble to grapple with a surge in Omicron cases, a new variant named 'IHU' has been reported from France with 12 persons testing positive for the new variant.

New Covid-19 Variant 'IHU' More Infectious Than Omicron Discovered In France: What We Know
A new Covid-19 variants is being reported from France | Image for representation

Even as cases of Omicron, a Covid-19 "variant of concern"  identified first in South Africa multiply quickly around the globe, another new Covid-19 variant is being reported from France which is believed to be much more infectious than Omicron. Scientists have named the new variant "IHU".

What is IHU?

IHU or B.1.640.2  is reportedly a new Covid-18 variant discovered in France by researchers at the Institute IHU Mederranee Infection. According to reports, researchers have claimed that the new variant has 46 more mutations than Omicron, which had already spread like wildfire around the world. The findings, published in a paper, state, "Fourteen amino acid substitutions, including N501Y and E484K, and 9 deletions are located in the spike protein. This genotype pattern led to creating a new Pangolin lineage named B.1.640.2, which is a phylogenetic sister group to the old B.1.640 lineage renamed B.1.640.1".

The researchers further wrote, "These data are another example of the unpredictability of the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants, and of their introduction in a given geographical area from abroad."

Where was "IHU" discovered?

The IHU variant was first discovered in France. As of now, 12 people in France have reportedly tested positive for the variant. The cases have all been detected near Marseilles have a travel history with the African nation of Cameroon.

"IHU" raises alarm 

Since the French researchers made the discovery, the new "IHU" variant has raised alarm among epidemiologists. One of the first to react to the new development was the US-based scientist Eric Feigl-Ding who shared the news on Twitter. 

Feigl-Ding however pointed out that there is a possibility that the variant can be identified using a shortcut technique of "PCR analysis of signals different from Delta and Omicron". This might be useful as it may help identify the variant quicker without the need for genome sequencing as with Omicron.

Deadlier than previous variants?

In a thread of tweets, Feigl-Ding explained that while new variants of Covid-19 kept emerging, it is not necessary that all will be more dangerous. 

The World Health Organisation has not commented on the new development yet, meaning that the new variant has not been identified and named by the global health body. 

Meanwhile, Omicron cases spread

While not much is as yet known or confirmed about the new variant being reported from France, Omicron cases have spread across the world. India itself has nearly 2000 cases of the new "variant of concern" with metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru reporting major spike. Several states and union territories in the country have imposed restrictions such as night and weekend curfews, curbs on public transport and closure of public places like gyms, cinema halls, malls, schools and offices. Authorities have been urging people to get vaccinated and maintain Covid-19 protocols as the only way to prevent catching the virus.