What is IHU Covid Variant and When was it Discovered in France?

Experts have downplayed concerns about a novel coronavirus type that was originally discovered in France and has been connected to travel to Cameroon.

On December 29, researchers from the IHU Méditerranée Infection in Marseille published their preliminary findings on the website medRxiv. They described 12 infections from a variation tentatively identified as B.1.640.2 in the same geographical area of south-eastern France.
The IHU announced the identification of the variant on December 9, however it appears that word of B.1.640.2 has only recently disseminated online.

As of January 1, a website named Thailand Medical reported that there had been 952 instances of B.1.640.2, without providing any verifiable evidence.

According to Dr. Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London’s Department of Infectious Disease, B.1.640.2 was discovered many weeks before the Omicron variant. On November 4, he claimed, researchers issued the first report on B.1.640.2.

Dr. Peacock commented on Twitter, “This virus has had a decent chance to cause trouble but never really materialised (as far as we can tell at least…).”

In order to combat Omicron’s rapid proliferation over the world, countries have reintroduced or tightened prohibitions.

Professor Francois Balloux, director of the Genetics Institute at University College London, also advised caution. “Please relax for now,” he urged.

When was the IHU discovered for the first time?

The first reported case of the IHU variant was discovered in mid-November 2021, according to a Forbes report. This predates Omicron’s formal discovery (on November 24).

The novel variant was detected in a Frenchman who had recently returned from Cameroon, Africa (the continent where Omicron was also discovered). When he started having respiratory problems, he was tested for Covid-19. The presence of the B.1.640.2 variation was detected in the sample.

Then, in the same geographic area of southwestern France, 11 further cases were reported.

More information on the B.1.640 lineage

The ancestors have been around for a long time. B.1.640 was first found on January 1, 2021, according to outbreak.info, an open-source library of Covid-19 materials and epidemiology data. So far, 400 infections linked to this lineage have been detected, according to the report.
According to outbreak.info, B.1.640 cases have been found in as many as 19 countries, including one in India. From 89,763 sequences recorded in global databases, the Indian case was identified.

France has recorded the most cases of the B.1.640 variant (287), followed by Congo (39), Germany (17), and the United Kingdom (17). (16).

Is the IHU variant spreading at a faster rate?

Only a dozen cases have been reported in France to date. No new cases of the new variant have been discovered in any other country. It’s also unclear whether B.1.640.2 is more powerful or spreads faster than other coronavirus strains already identified.

As a result, the World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet classified this IHU variant as a variant of interest, concern, or even inquiry.

It is too early to speculate on the virological, epidemiological, or clinical aspects of this IHU variation, according to a pre-print research published in MedRxiv.

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