While the world is struggling to battle the Omicron variant of COVID-19, another, more infectious one has been detected in France. The new variant, B.1.640.2 is called IHU. The new strain was discovered on December 10 by academics at the IHU Mediterranee Infection, Marseille, France, hence the name IHU.
According to researchers, the IHU variant contains 46 mutations, even more than Omicron. The strain carries the N501Y and the E484K mutations. N501Y mutation was first observed in the Alpha variant. IHU is more infectious than Omicron and is more resistant to vaccines.
Around 12 cases of IHU have been detected in France so far. The first case was traced back to the African country Cameroon. IHU is not detected in other countries so far. The World Health organization has not yet labeled the variant 'under investigation.'
The world is terrorized by the Omicron variant currently. The infection rate has increased drastically leading to the closing of international borders and partial lockdowns in countries.
According to the DailyMail, more than 120,000 cases of Omicron have been detected so far.
With the Omicron already being attributed for a possible third wave of COVID, the new, even more infectious variant detected in France has contributed to the increased panic.
The IHU variant precedes Omicron
Virologists, however, claim that the IHU variant is not something to fret about, as it is not outcompeting the dominant Omicron strain. According to DailyMail, virologists noted that IHU existed even before Omicron, but hasn't spread, leading to the possibility that it is likely to fade without causing any significant impact.
The IHU strain was first recorded in variant-tracking database GISAID on November 4, which is around two weeks before the Omicron variant was sequenced.
'IHU is not worth worrying about'
A virologist at Imperial College London, Dr. Thomas Peacock noted that the IHU variant has had 'a decent chance to cause trouble but never really materialized'. Therefore, it is definitely 'not one worth worrying about too much' currently, he added.
A geneticist at University College London, Professor Francis Balloux told people to 'relax' as the IHU variant is not attributed either with the sudden spike in cases or hospitalizations in France.
First published in a pre-print posted on medRxiv, the IHU variant's discovery is yet to be published in an academic journal.