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Coronavirus

Explainer: New ‘IHU’ COVID-19 variant found in France capable of 46 mutations

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Researchers in France have detected a new variant of COVID-19 that has been dubbed the “IHU” variant after the lab that discovered it.

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A study published in Medrxiv on December 29 described how the new variant was capable of 46 different mutations.

Authored by scientists from the IHU Mediterranee Infection, the study describes how the new variant was likely contracted during the infected patient’s stay in Cameroon.

Research is still in its early stages and the paper has not yet been peer-reviewed.

The study displays the “unpredictability of the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants and their introduction from abroad, and [exemplifies] the difficulty to control such introduction and subsequent spread.”.

New COVID-19 variants are of real concern as they are able to infect vaccinated people, according to the study.

“Variants have become a major virological, epidemiological, and clinical concern, particularly with regard to the risk of escape from vaccine-induced immunity,” the study said.

The IHU variant was identified in 12 people in the southern Alps around the same time that omicron was discovered in South Africa late last year.

Despite concern over the mutating virus, the World Health Organization said the IHU variant had not become much of a threat since it was first identified.

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.”

- With Bloomberg

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