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France Reports New COVID-19 Variant ‘IHU’

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While the world is grappling with the highly infectious Omicron strain of COVID-19, scientists in France have identified a new coronavirus strain, B.1.640.2, at the institute IHU Méditerranée Infection in Marseille.

Named IHU, the new B.1.640.2 variant has so far infected 12 people living in southeastern France. The first case was linked to a person with a travel history to Cameroon.

This is coming some days after Israel reported its first case of rare double infection of COVID and Influenza, Flurona.

Although it is yet to be spotted in other countries or labelled a variant under investigation by the World Health Organisation (WHO), researchers believe the new variant contains 46 mutations, more than Omicron.

Prof Philippe Colson, who heads the unit that discovered the strain, said: “We indeed have several cases of this new variant in the Marseille geographical area. We named it ‘variant IHU’. Two new genomes have just been submitted. It is too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological or clinical features of this IHU variant based on these 12 cases.”

According to the study, the index case (the first patient) was a vaccinated adult who had returned to France from a trip to Cameroon, in central Africa.

Three days after returning, he developed mild respiratory symptoms. His nasopharyngeal sample collected mid-November 2021, “revealed an atypical combination that did not correspond to the pattern of the Delta variant involved in almost all SARS-CoV-2 infections at that time”, and later to Omicron as well, Colson said. Continue Reading

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