KUALA LUMPUR : The emergence of IHU — a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the Covid-19 pandemic — appears to have raised fresh pandemic concerns after the variant emerged in France recently, news.com.au reported on Wednesday (Jan 5).

It was reported that IHU was first detected in France last month, but is now making international headlines after catching the attention of global experts.

“The medical world is on alert yet again after a new mutant Covid-19 variant emerged in France recently. At least 12 cases were confirmed near the Marseilles area, and it is understood that many of those patients were hospitalised with the illness.

“Variant IHU, which is believed to be linked with travel to the African nation of Cameroon, has 46 mutations which experts fear could mean it is more resistant to existing vaccines.

“However, on a more positive note, the new strain does not appear to be spreading rapidly,” news.com.au reported.

News on the emergence of IHU followed the widely-reported concerns due to the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

At the time of writing, websites of the World Health Organisation and Malaysia’s Ministry of Health have yet to provide updates on IHU.

Malaysia on Dec 2, 2021 detected its first case involving the Omicron variant after a South African national tested positive for it, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Dec 3.

“We have done comprehensive contact tracing,” Khairy said at a press conference then.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that the World Health Organisation (WHO) said a coronavirus variant found in France hasn’t become much of a threat since it was first identified in November.

The variant “has been on our radar”, Abdi Mahamud, a WHO incident manager on Covid-19, said at a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday. “That virus had a lot of chances to pick up.”

Bloomberg reported that the IHU variant was identified in 12 people in the southern Alps around the same time that Omicron was discovered in South Africa last year.

“The latter mutation (IHU) has since travelled the globe and kindled record levels of contagion, unlike the French one that researchers at the IHU Mediterranee Infection — helmed by scientist Didier Raoult — nicknamed IHU.

“The first patient identified with the [IHU] variant was vaccinated and had just returned from Cameroon, IHU researchers wrote in a paper published on the medRxiv server in late December where they first drew attention to the atypical mutations,” Bloomberg reported.  THE EDGE

New Covid-19 variant ‘IHU’ discovered in France, has more mutations than Omicron

Scientists in France have identified a new strain of coronavirus with more mutations than the Omicron variant. The emergence of the new variant, which probably originated in Cameroon, as per the study, harbours both substitutions N501Y and E484K in the spike protein. At least 12 cases of the new variant have been reported near Marseilles, and has been linked to travel to the African country Cameroon.

“The mutation set and phylogenetic position of the genomes obtained here indicate based on our previous definition a new variant we named IHU,” the authors of the study said.

“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,” they added.

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

According to a paper posted on medRxiv, the genomes were obtained by next-generation sequencing with Oxford Nanopore Technologies on GridION instruments.

“Fourteen amino acid substitutions, including N501Y and E484K, and 9 deletions are located in the spike protein. This genotype pattern led to create 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 research paper said.

Epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding posted a long Twitter thread in which he said that new variants keep emerging but it does not necessarily mean they will be more dangerous. “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.

The Omicron variant was detected in a sample taken from South Africa on November 24 last year. Since then, it has spread to more than 100 countries. In India, it has infected nearly 1,900 people. HINDUSTAN TIMES