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How Threatening Is the New ‘IHU’ Variant of Coronavirus?

Looks like Evil Dr. Strange won’t be the only variant we’ll be seeing this year. The world is still terrified of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and it seems like there’s a new variant in town.

The IHU variant found in France is reportedly having more mutations than the Omicron variant. But is this variant as serious as its predecessors? Let us find out.

What is the IHU Variant?

The IHU variant or the B.1.640.2 was detected in France the previous month. The variant was detected by researchers at Mediterranee Infection University Hospital Institute (IHU) based in Marseille. That’s where it got its name from.

The IHU variation reportedly has 46 Mutations and 37 deletions present in its genetic code which is way more than omicron.

Research shows that the supposed strain of SARS-CoV-2 is carrying the same mutation that was present in the Alpha variant, which is the N501Y mutation. Which makes it more transferrable compared to its peers.

The strain also carries the E484K mutation. Generally speaking, this mutation makes the strain more resistant to vaccines. Well, that sounds troublesome.

Where Was It Detected?

The IHU variant is not new. The B.1.640.2 variant is being classified as a sub-lineage of the B.1.640 variant which dates back to January 2021.

Why is it being brought over now if it is an old variant? Well, the thing is, the discussion about the IHU variant reportedly started because a week-old study suddenly started circulating by researchers of Méditerranée Infection in Marseille.

The IHU variant was first found last year in November present in 12 people who were coming back from a trip to Cameroon. These 12 people lived in the same geographical area in Southeastern France.

This new variant was found very similar to the B.1.640 variant and hence the researchers made it a sub-lineage variant of B.1.640 and named it B.1.640.2 or the IHU variant.

How Dangerous is the IHU Variant?

The cases of the B.1.640 variant have been witnessed in 19 countries till now while the highest number of cases are still from France (287).

However, the IHU or the B.1.640.2 variant has had about 12 or so cases reported in France. And no other countries have yet detected this variant. It’s not spreading at an alarming rate as Omicron and the last detected case was back on December 25 according to outbreak.info.

It is still not confirmed how strong and fast-spreading the IHU variant is as compared to its peer variants. A pre-print paper published in MedRxivi states that it is too soon to speculate the clinical, virological, or epidemiological features of the IHU variant.

WHO claims that the IHU variant is not currently a threat and has filed it as a ‘variant under investigation.’ This generally means that the variant is currently not a threat but worth keeping an eye out for.

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