Researchers In France Discover Yet Another Coronavirus Variant, IHU

06 Jan, 2022 F.J. Thomas


Sarasota, FL ( – While the U.S. has seen a recent explosion of COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant, according a recent MedRxiv study another new variant of the virus has recently been detected in 12 people in France.

The new variant, B.1.640.2 also known as IHU, was discovered early last month by researchers at the IHU Méditerranée Infection facility in Marseille, France. Analysis of the new IHU variant showed it had 46 mutations, including the N501Y and E484K spike substitutions, both of which are also seen in Omicron. Due to the presence of the N501Y and E484K spike substitutions, researchers speculate that the new variant could be highly transmissible and more resistant to vaccines.

The initial case happened in a patient that was fully vaccinated and had just returned from a three-day trip to Cameroon in Africa. The individual developed mild respiratory symptoms the day before diagnosis. Additional respiratory samples were obtained for genome sequencing from 7 adults that also showed the same muted variant.

While it appears the virus has rapidly mutated, creating multiple variants that scientists are diligently working to study and process, according to a December 10th report from Yale Medicine, there are currently 5 variant strains that the medical community is closely monitoring.

Most recently in the news is the Omicron variant, identified in Botswana and South Africa in November of this year. Initial cases in South Africa jumped from 300 cases a day to 3,000 cases a day over a two week period. Since identification, more cases have quickly been diagnosed in many more countries including the US as of mid-December. Considered more transmissible than Delta, Omicron has around 50 mutations that scientists are still working to understand. One concern that researchers have is that 30 of the mutations are on the spike protein that allows the virus to attach to human cells. As a result, the virus is able go undetected, camouflaged as part of the body itself and not triggering a natural immunity response.

According to the Yale report, the first person diagnosed with the Omicron variant was fully vaccinated, and the second had also received a booster shot. With more research to be done, it is unclear how effective vaccination will be against this variant considering its method of operation.

The Delta variant was one of the first well-known variants, discovered at the end of 2020. With more than a dozen mutations itself, evidence has shown that it is highly contagious even among vaccinated individuals, and is 80 to 90 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant. In fact, as of fall 2021 even the most vaccinated states have seen surges in cases due to the Delta strain.

The Delta AY.4.2, an offshoot of the Delta virus, the variant is thought to be even more contagious than its parent. That said, while there has been a surge of cases in Great Britain, there has not been the same level of cases in the US. Initial data shows the potential for the virus to be 10 to 20 percent more transmissible, however more research needs to be done.

The Beta variant was discovered in South Africa at the end of last year, and has made an appearance in several other countries. Researchers were initially concerned about the level of mutation and the virus’ ability to avoid antibodies, however cases have decreased within the last year. With a higher likelihood for hospitalization, researchers estimate that the Beta is 50 percent more contagious than the original coronavirus strain, and vaccination has not been as effective for protection.

First appearing in Great Britain in late fall 2020, the Alpha variant quickly became a dominant strain of infection as 30 to 50 percent more contagious than the original coronavirus. At the height of the Alpha surge, it’s estimated that 66 percent of COVID cases were from the Alpha variant. By comparison, in the US the Delta was the predominate variant strain during the same time period. Studies show that the Alpha is more likely to cause hospitalization and death that the original coronavirus strain. According to vaccine manufacturers, the vaccines are effective against the Alpha variant.


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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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