Story at a glance
- The variant, identified as B.1.640.2, has been found in 12 people in the southern Alps.
- The strain is believed to be Cameroonian in origin.
- “It is too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological or clinical features of this IHU variant based on these 12 cases,” researchers wrote.
Health experts are keeping their eye on a new variant of the coronavirus recently detected in southern France.
The variant, identified as B.1.640.2, has been found in 12 people in the southern Alps and was first detected in November, which was around the same time that the now-dominant omicron variant was first found in South Africa.
The “IHU” variant, nicknamed by researchers at the Marseille-based Mediterranee Infection University Hospital Institute (IHU), is believed to be Cameroonian in origin. The first patient believed to be infected by the strain was vaccinated and had recently returned to France after traveling to Cameroon.
The variant has 46 mutations and 37 deletions in its genetic code, many affecting the spike protein.
Researchers from the IHU outlined the findings in a preprint paper released Dec. 29, which has yet to be peer-reviewed.
While researchers are monitoring the strain to determine how infectious it is or whether it poses a significant threat, they emphasized that it’s too early to say much about the strain based on the low number of known cases, and its discovery alone was not cause for alarm.
“It is too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological or clinical features of this IHU variant based on these 12 cases,” researchers wrote.
World Health Organization (WHO) officials said they were monitoring the variant but added that, for now, there is little reason for concern.
Abdi Mahmud, a WHO incident manager on COVID-19, said during a news conference Tuesday that the virus hasn’t spread widely since first being discovered.
“That virus has had a lot of chances to pick up,” Mahmud said, according to The New York Times.
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